Wesley Matthews hopes Mavs’ young players return ‘angry, hungry’ next season

DALLAS — He served as a mentor for many of the Dallas Mavericks’ first- and second-year players throughout the 2016-17 season. Now, veteran swingman Wesley Matthews hopes his mentorship and guidance motivates the Mavericks’ young players to return to the court next season with a chip on their shoulders.

Starting out the ’16-17 schedule with a 4-17 record as injuries depleted their veteran-laden roster, the Mavs were forced to turn to a bevy of untested and unproven contributors often this season. The Mavericks’ unsung heroes then gained valuable experience on the court, despite missing out on the playoffs following a 33-49 season. Still, with the bitter taste of missing the postseason lingering his mouth, the 30-year-old Matthews says the Mavs must use their shortcomings as motivation going into next year.

“We need to stay healthy,” Matthews matter-of-factly said. “You know, in my two years here, it’s been a lot of what-ifs because of injuries, and that’s just part of the game. But everybody just needs to take the offseason to get better, let the frustrations of stuff that we could control kind of be in our minds and come back with a mentality that this isn’t going to happen again until later in the year.”

This season, Matthews averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists an outing while playing in 73 games, connecting on 39.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from behind the three-point arc. Perhaps more importantly, Matthews took the team’s undrafted rookies under his wing after also going untaken in 2009.

The Mavs finished the season with four undrafted rookies playing meaningful minutes in point guard Yogi Ferrell, first-year forward Dorian Finney-Smith, midseason addition Jarrod Uthoff and Argentine swingman Nicolas Brussino. Second-round draft pick A.J. Hammons also saw plenty of playing time late in the season as the Mavericks rested their veterans and extended the minutes of their young players down the stretch. That experience figures to prove beneficial for the Mavs’ emerging young core going forward. And according to Matthews, the Mavs will now look to those young pros next year in hopes of producing a bounce-back season.

“They got better every week and every month. You know, as games went on, you’d see something else, and they’re receptive. They listened, and they work hard,” Matthews proclaimed while praising the team’s young contributors.

“I expect for them to keep working,” he added. “All of the young guys were essentially undrafted, so I can relate to all of them. And they should be angry regardless. They shouldn’t need much motivation. With us not making the playoffs, fortunately, it gave them more opportunity to play and more opportunity to grow as players, to get real-time minutes and be in situations like that. So, learn from that, and just be hungry for more.”

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