PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Wesley Matthews returned to Portland on Tuesday night for the first time since leaving the team as a free agent last summer.
Matthews was the center of attention for the Dallas Mavericks' first game against the Trail Blazers this season. The 28-year-old shooting guard was a fan favorite during his five years in Rip City, known for his hard-nosed determination.
Asked before the game if there was anything he missed about Portland, Matthews said the familiarity.
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''The community was always awesome to me, the fans were awesome to me, the organization. And just how weird you guys are,'' Matthews said, drawing laughs from the crowd of reporters surrounding him.
Last season the Blazers appeared to be a team that could make a run in the playoffs, with a talented starting five that included Matthews, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge.
But late in the season – during a game against the Mavericks – Matthews crumpled to the court with a torn Achilles tendon. The Blazers not only missed his defense and perimeter shooting, they also missed his spirit and ability to bring the team together.
Portland was ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Memphis Grizzlies, and every one of the starters, except for Lillard, went elsewhere in the offseason.
Matthews signed a four-year, $70 million deal with the Mavericks. He received a maximum contract after DeAndre Jordan suddenly changed his mind and returned to the Los Angeles Clippers, the team that drafted him, after agreeing to terms with Dallas.
The Mavericks also signed Zaza Pachulia and Deron Williams in the offseason. Both are starting along with Matthews, who has worked his way back quickly from the Achilles injury.
''People that know him know that he's a beat-the-odds kind of guy,'' Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
But Matthews isn't where he'd like to be yet. He's averaging 11.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists, down from the 16.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists he averaged last season with the Blazers.
''I almost forget what I went through. I almost forget that it's a process. I almost forget that it's a blessing that I'm playing basketball, that I was playing as early as I was,'' he said. ''Sometimes I take that for granted and I press and I press. And that may be part of the reason why I'm shooting the way I'm shooting.''
Matthews didn't expect to have any emotion when passing the spot on the court where he fell last spring.
''I think one of the best things about me in this whole process coming back, I never second-guessed. I never thought, what if? I never thought, oh my God, this could have happened,'' he said. ''I just kept going.''