Renewed focus this summer has led to Wesley Matthews’ early-season success

DALLAS — Although his numbers across the board have been drowned out by the Dallas Mavericks’ sluggish start to the season, veteran swingman Wesley Matthews says his summer conditioning and renewed focus have manifested onto the court.

Last season, Matthews averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists an outing while playing in 73 games. He also connected on just 39.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from behind the three-point arc after a lackluster first season with the Mavericks (1-5). He committed to reshaping his body and mind from there this summer with hopes of having a bounce-back year, shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three-point range through the Mavs’ first six games this season. And with the 6-foot-5 swingman averaging 13.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and a career high-tying 1.5 steals per outing thus far this season, Matthews says he’s willing to continue doing whatever it takes to get the Mavericks on track.

“I’m just playing my game,” Matthews proclaimed after scoring 18 points in Thursday’s 96-91 loss at Memphis. “I’m not trying to press, not trying to put too much pressure on myself and not trying to do too much as far as creating and making plays. I’m just playing my game, relaxing and trying to have fun with basketball again, doing whatever I can to help this team win. We all put a lot of work into this offseason, and we’ve got to make it show for something.”

Swishing in 5-of-9 shooting from three-point range during a season-opening 117-111 loss at home to Atlanta on Oct. 18, Matthews showed that he was ready to provide the Mavericks with consistent perimeter scoring once again. He then bounced back from a 0-for-7 performance the following game against Sacramento, making 12 of 25 from three-point range in his last four outings. Matthews again stepped up after the Mavericks fell behind by 22 Thursday night in Memphis, helping to stage a comeback with four three-pointers on six attempts in the third quarter before eventually falling to a narrow defeat. But according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, Matthews is simply just showcasing the leadership he’s displayed since arriving in Dallas.

“Well, I don’t think there’s really anything different. You know, the team is slightly different with a rookie point guard, and there’s some adjusting going on. But we’re having to do it quickly and it’s necessary, because the games come fast and the teams are really good. But Wes is a constant,” Carlisle explained. “He’s going to give you the competitive attitude, he’s going to give you the leadership, and he’s going to give you the shotmaking. And when things get tough, he’s one of the guys that’s going to be in the front leading the team out of a ditch, and that’s what we need right now.”

Signing a reported four-year deal worth $70 million in July of 2015, Matthews rehabbed his way back from a torn Achilles tendon that ended his ’14-15 season after only 60 games with Portland. He then averaged 12.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 78 appearances for the Mavericks throughout the ’15-16 schedule while battling back from the injury, shooting 38.8 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range.

Matthews now hopes to lead the Mavericks back to the playoffs after a 33-49 campaign last season. But after his team slipped to 1-5 following Thursday’s loss, the 31-year-old sharpshooter says the Mavs must draw a line in the dirt to decide how they want this season to go.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Matthews matter-of-factly said. “We know what we’re capable of doing. We’ve done it against the elites, and we’ve also shot ourselves in the foot against the elites. So, this season comes down to who do we want to be and who do we commit to being.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Devin Harris (personal reasons) — not with the team
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — not with the team
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — not with the team

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