In 2009, Wesley Matthews didn’t hear his name called on draft night, but he’s had a longer and more successful career than a lot of the shooting guards that did get drafted because of his ability to do two things at a high level: defend and shoot the 3-ball. Those same two things are what earned him a one-year, $3.6 million contract with the defending champions of the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers, at the age of 35.
However, as confident as Matthews in his ability to be the reliable 3-and-D wing the Lakers need alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, he’s hopeful that he’ll be able to show he’s more than that under Frank Vogel next season.
“Obviously, I like to pride myself on the defensive side of the ball and obviously shooting threes is write up my avenue, but I look forward to not only just defending and shooting threes, but playing basketball,” Matthews said in his introductory press conference on Tuesday. “Watching the Lakers from a distance and competing against them, there’s a lot of ball movement, a lot of player movement, a lot of random situations; stuff that I feel like I really excel in, and an underrated part of my game is playing off the ball.
“Since college, I haven’t been the go-to guy, so I’ve always had to find ways to play without the basketball and I’ve done that my whole life. So, that isn’t anything new to me and that’s something that I feel like I can provide with this team, in a style in which they already do it.”
Matthews’ ability to play off of the ball will be even more beneficial to him this season. Not only do the Lakers have James, one of the greatest passers the NBA has ever seen, under contract, but they also recently signed Marc Gasol, who is adept at making things happen in the high post. Whether he’s cutting or running to the corners, where he shot 41% last season, he’s going to have opportunities to score if he’s moving off of the ball.
Matthews will probably be the Lakers’ starting shooting guard next season like he was for the Milwaukee Bucks last season, but according to him, he hasn’t had discussions with Vogel about what his role will be. He doesn’t have any expectations for what his role will be with the team, either. For him, the most important thing is to be prepared for anything.
“I don’t think that they’re bringing me here not to do anything,” Matthews said. “So what I’m doing is what I’ve always been doing: Working, staying in the gym, sharpening up every tool that there is in a basketball game. Shooting, obviously, ball handling ... But most importantly just keeping my body right, keeping my body so that we can grind.
“I know it’s only 72 games now, but the NBA season is a grind and it’s been an awkward offseason, an awkward year, I guess you can say, not that traditional time where you can start ramping up your offseason to more extensive workouts and stuff, so the main thing is making sure that health and your body, the foundation is stable so that we can go out there and give max effort every single night.”
Matthews is saying all of the things you want to hear from a veteran player like him. Now, we just have to wait and see if he does all of the right things too. If the last 11 years are any sign of what kind of player the Lakers are getting, though, he’ll be just fine.
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