Coming into this season, Wesley Matthews had shot 38% or better on corner threes for his entire career. So during his first press conference as a member of the Lakers, I asked him how much he was looking forward to LeBron James — arguably the greatest passer in NBA history — finding him for open looks.
“I really want to shoot the ball. So I think there’s your answer right there. Who doesn’t want to shoot the ball? I’ve just got to make sure that I get to that spot, and I know that ball will be there,” Matthews said. “Hopefully more often than not the other team is going to be taking it out of the net.”
After a slow start, Matthews has found his comfort zone and is delivering on his preseason promise: He’s shooting 5-11 (45.4%) from the corners so far, and 39% from three overall. And now that he’s actually played with James a bit, he gets what all the hype was about.
“Get ready,” Matthews said when asked what he had to do when James was looking for him, repeating “get ready” a second time for emphasis. “He can see the court better than anybody, so always have your hands ready, be shot-ready and space the court out.”
Matthews has done a good job of that so far, and James has clearly been looking for him. No Laker has assisted on more of Matthews’ baskets (9) than James has, with Kyle Kuzma (2) not even a very close second.
“Wes Matthews is big-time for our team, a D and 3 guy,” James said when asked why he’s been targeting Matthews so much. And yes, he actually said “D and 3” rather than “three-and-D” to describe Matthews, multiple times.
“When he’s running the floor or he’s finding himself on the weakside, I just try to find him. When he has space, he has a quick trigger,” James said after Matthews hit four threes against the Chicago Bulls. “Tonight was just another example of him just knocking down shots but also defending at the same time.”
Matthews has only played in one game since then while the Lakers are cautious with his ongoing Achilles soreness, but his praise for James — and how much the star clearly sees him as a weapon he wants to use — is notable, because their’s could be an important partnership for the Lakers this season as long as Matthews’ health improves. James has always found at least one shooter to look for during his career, the remora fish to his great white shark. Matthews knows his role, and has seen that staying ready for James’ passes will make it easier than ever.
“He’s going to do most of the work for you, all you’ve got to do is just step in,” Matthews said.
It’s just another reminder of how easy playing with James can be, and that the Lakers have cruised to the best record in the league so far with one big weapon still mostly in their holster. And as soon as he’s fully healthy as the Lakers take precautions with him, expect Matthews to be ready to step in and fire.