When Wesley Matthews went down during Portland’s 94-75 win over the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts had no idea that his starting guard had just torn his Achilles tendon.
“You know, I didn’t because I didn’t see it the way the fans on television did,” Stotts said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Obviously watching the replay on television – had I seen that – my first thought would have been that it was his Achilles, but from where I was standing, I couldn’t tell what had happened. I knew he went down, (but I) didn’t know if he slipped or he sprained an ankle. I really didn’t know.”
Matthews – who was averaging 15.9 points, 2.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds – did, in fact, tear his Achilles and will miss the rest of the season. Doug Gottlieb described the 28-year-old Marquette product as someone who is “beloved” by both teammates and people who cover the team.
What kind of damage might Matthews’ injury do to the psyche of the Trail Blazers (41-20), who are currently the 4-seed in a stacked Western Conference?
“Well, it’s something that we’re going to have to get over,” Stotts said. “There have been other teams who deal with injuries and have the same type of problems. But for us, Wes is such a fierce competitor. He’s great in the locker room. Obviously you see what he does on the court at both ends of the court. He’s one of the best two-way guards in the league. There’s certainly the basketball part that we’re going to miss, but the intangibles as well.
“We’ve done a great job this year of coming back from double-digit deficits, and he’s been one of the reasons why,” Stotts continued. “I can go on and on about the things that we’re going to miss from Wes. But all that being said, I think everybody – players and coaches – realize that we’ve got to find a way to fill the void, and it’s going to come from multiple places.”
One place will be Arron Afflalo, who was acquired from Denver before the trade deadline. Afflalo is averaging 9.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in seven games since the trade.
Looking back, it was great foresight – lucky, even – to acquire Afflalo, who has averaged 11.4 points during his seven-year career.
“I give (general manager) Neil Olshey a lot of credit,” Stotts said. “I wouldn’t call it luck. I think this was a move that we wanted to make going into the trade deadline, and we wanted to bolster our bench and Arron certainly gave us that. We were making a nice transition having Arron come off the bench and kind of having a three-man rotation between Arron, Wes and (Nicolas Batum) at the 2 (and) 3 (spots). So I wouldn’t say it was lucky. I thought it was a well-planned, thought-out move by Neil Olshey.”
Afflalo started Portland’s most recent game – a 121-113 loss at Minnesota on Saturday – and finished with 14 points, one assist and one turnover in 32 minutes. He also fouled out, this after being called for just four fouls in his previous three games combined.
Still, Stotts believes Afflalo will fill his new role admirably.
“Arron is a quality starter in this league, and I think he fits in well with what we do,” Stotts said. “Now we just need to rely on some other people coming off the bench.”
The Trail Blazers host the Rockets (43-20) on Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET. Portland trails Houston by just one game in the playoff standings.