Get ready for controversy. Not really. This afternoon Wesley Matthews addressed the local media at the Blazers’ practice facility, and he said, wait for it, he wants to be a starter. Here’s the problem, Nate McMillan has already said that Brandon Roy may be able to be back in the starting lineup at the two spot, meaning that what Wesley wants, Wesley can’t get. Uh oh. This could be trouble.
Like I said, not really. In fact, trouble is the exact opposite of what this could be. Get in your time machines and go back to Fan Fest 2010. If your memory is good you might recall that that evening Wesley and Brandon were on opposite teams, and both put on a show going at each other all night.
My first thought when I saw that? Man having Wesley on Brandon’s heels every day is going to be great for Brandon because he’ll get to play against one of the best young players at his position in the league. My second thought? Wesley benefits from this relationship nearly as much, if not more, because he has someone to chase all season.
We all know what happened last year, so I won’t get into it, but at the start of this season we find ourselves in very much the same place we were a year ago (well more than a year since Fan Fest 2010 happened October 1st). Except for a few minor changes. Wesley started for almost an entire season, and Brandon is on the verge of not being on the team anymore.
So maybe those changes aren’t so minor. I do think, though, that however minor or major the changes a year made actually are, Brandon and Wesley fighting for playing time can only make them better, and by extension can only help the team.
Of course there’s no real drama here. Both Brandon and Wesley have said all they want to do is win games; whatever role they take in those wins they’re comfortable with as long as the team wins. It’s the standard answer, but Brandon and Wesley are honest dudes. They really do want to win.
There are other factors at play here too. For instance, a jam packed schedule means that everybody on the bench will play at one point or another. Wesley may not be in the starting five every night of the week, but I seriously doubt his minutes per game or total minutes take a hit. Then there’s Brandon’s contract. Having Brandon as a sixth man might be cool, he’s a capable scorer, and the Blazers’ offense is already built with him at the core. But he makes WAY more than sixth man money. If he’s going to play, the thinking goes, he has to start. Nate McMillan isn’t going to put Brandon out there just to do it, but getting Brandon into the starting lineup, and getting every last drop of the max money deal onto the court, has to be task number one at the top of somebody’s check list (by somebody obviously I mean Paul Allen).
Here’s something else to consider: The Blazers’ bench with Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum leading the way. I’ve said it before, but I think it’s worth repeating. Wesley and Nic as the anchor of the bench allows Portland to run, they’re two of the fastest and fittest guys on the team and both can finish every time on the break, gives them two hard-nosed stoppers on the wings, and allows Portland to spread the floor because they can both flat out shoot the ball. That’s not bad. Throw in Greg Oden, and that’s not a bad second unit. Like I said, I’ve mentioned all that before, but still, think about. Wesley coming off the bench is not a bad thing.
My point is this, I guess, Wesley is a competitor, so is Brandon, you can’t expect either of these guys to not want to be part of the top team. Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com summed it up the best with this tweet. What it means for us as fans is that we get to see two guys with something to prove play their hearts out. What it means for the team is that two of their leaders have already stepped up and said they’re ready to push each other to make the team as good as it can be. There’s really nothing wrong with that.
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