The Lakers settled back into their normal rotation ahead of Sunday’s game against the Rockets, but for guard Wesley Matthews, the experience of getting the starting nod against Chicago on Friday—with both Anthony Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope injured—was a good one.
Matthews shot 4-for-8 from the 3-point line in that game, tying his season high with 14 points. While he said he is still getting adjusted to his role as a bench contributor, Matthews credited coach Frank Vogel with some high praise, particularly for a guy who has been in the NBA for 12 seasons with seven different franchises.
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After the Bulls game, Matthews called Vogel, “probably the best communicator as a coach that I’ve had on this early season.”
“He communicates very well about whatever is going on in his lineup, whatever he’s thinking,” Matthews said. “So, that gives you comfort. When you know when you’re coming in, when you’re coming out, you can start usually preparing yourself and you can get ready and then you can start watching the game a little bit differently. He’s a great communicator so far with me and that really helps my curve here.”
Wesley Matthews Still Adjusting to Bench Role
It is unlikely that we will see much of Matthews in the starting lineup this year, despite his production lately. After a faltering start in which he scored just eight points and missed all eight of his 3-pointers in his first four games, Matthews has broken out for the Lakers, shooting 51.6% from the 3-point line in the last six games, averaging 8.8 points.
Matthews discussed his lack of concern over his slow start, chalking it up to, “the law of averages.”
“A coach, I forget at what point in my career, and I wish I remember who exactly said it, but they kind of broke it down to a sample size for me,” Matthew said. “It was like, ‘Look at it over five games.’ You can’t just get too high on one game, too low on one game. And he said, ‘Whether it’s 0-for-8 or 6-for-6, five-game law of averages, that’s 6-for-14, you look at that and just continue to build.”
Matthews has been an excellent 3-point shooter his entire career, making 38.1% of his tries from the arc. He has taken more and more 3s as he has aged (he is 34 now) and, last year, 70.4% of his shots were from the 3-point line. This year with the Lakers, that is up to 86.7%, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Wesley Matthews: Defense Is Key When Coming Off Bench
But it has been a challenge for Matthews to acclimate to a bench role. Before coming to the Lakers, Matthews had started 729 of his 791 NBA games, and had not consistently come off the bench since he was in Portland in 2011.
He acknowledged the difficulty.
“You’ve been doing something one way for a decade, kind of getting used to that, you kind of develop habits, develop routines,” Matthew said. “I just take it all in stride. This year has been an unconventional year all across the board, so if there was a time to come off the bench, I think it would be now where everything is an adjustment. Daily life I an adjustment, so it kind of just fits with the mold of how everything is going right now.”
Most players do not go into detail how coming off the bench affects them vs. being a starter. But Matthews, a good defensive player, explained why being a reserve makes it difficult for him to ramp up into a game:
I get myself going on the defensive end, so as a starter obviously I’ve always been paired with whoever the best player on the other tea is so that already instantly engages me in the game. So coming off the bench, it’s just finding different ways to stay engaged, stay ready, get my body ready and most importantly, I’m coming in guarding one of the Top 2 scorers and they’ve already got a flow and they’ve already got their body going and I’m fresh off the bench. So, it’s mental, it’s physical and it’s going to be an ongoing adjustment.