Wesley Matthews relished role as mentor for Mavs’ undrafted rookies

DALLAS — Despite seeing a slight increase in his production during his second campaign with the Dallas Mavericks, versatile swingman Wesley Matthews’ biggest impact throughout the 2016-17 season may have come in the locker room while serving as a mentor for the team’s young contributors.

This season, the 30-year-old Matthews averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists an outing while playing in 73 games. He also connected on 39.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from behind the three-point arc, continuing to provide stellar outside shooting in his second season with the team after signing a reported four-year deal worth $70 million last summer. But after seeing the Mavericks’ playoff hopes dashed by countless injuries during a 33-49 campaign, Matthews says the team’s veterans and young players must return next year motivated by their lackluster record.

“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, 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.”

Going untaken in the 2009 draft after earning second-team All-Big East honors at Marquette as a senior, Matthews related to the Mavericks’ young contributors and unsung heroes this season.

All told, the Mavs finished the season with four undrafted rookies on the roster in point guard Yogi Ferrell, first-round forward Dorian Finney-Smith, midseason addition Jarrod Uthoff and Argentine swingman Nicolas Brussino. Second-round draft pick A.J. Hammons also gained experience late in the season after a stint with the Mavericks’ NBA Development League affiliate, the Texas Legends. Matthews and the Mavs now hope all of the young contributors can expand their games during the summer to return better players next season. But according to Finney-Smith, it was Matthews’ mentorship and tutelage that helped him get through the grueling 82-game schedule during the ’16-17 campaign.

“He did a lot, man. I mean, I learned a lot through the adversity this year, especially shooting droughts, and he never let me doubt myself,” Finney-Smith said while praising his veteran mentor after playing in 81 games as a rookie. “He always stayed on me, and he always told me to remember what got me on the court. So, whatever happens on offense, just make sure you keep doing what you’re doing.”

Finney-Smith was just one of the many young players on the roster that Matthews took under his wings this season as the Mavericks’ veterans suffered through an injury-riddle year. But it’s the experience that the Mavs’ young contributors gained this season that Matthews says will be beneficial as the team tries to make a playoff push again next year.

Matthews now expects for the first- and second-year pros to enter the summer motivated for more success after gaining valuable on-court experience this season. That said, the eight-year veteran will admittedly continue to push the young pros for more personal and team success moving forward.

“I mean, I expect for them to keep working,” Matthews proclaimed. “All of the young guys were especially 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.

“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.”

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