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Over Three Years Later, Matthews And Maynor Continue What They Started Together

02/27/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    "We used to get it in on days off. Not too many guys went in but we would go in and really get after each other."

    On a Tuesday in February where the weather switched personalities from bright blue skies to dimly lit grey ones in Tualatin, Trail Blazers guards Wesley Matthews and Eric Maynor are chatting it up over their beloved Minnesota Vikings. The rest of the Trail Blazers work through the shooting drills that wrap-up every practice while the two chat on the bench by the far court at the Trail Blazers practice facility. Injured guard Elliot Williams sits next to them but after about five minutes Williams leaves and the two Vikings fans are left to discuss their team's needs in the offseason.

    But as they sit and chat about their Vikings or whatever it may be, they've been in the same position before. They are back in a gym, practicing together again. Over three years ago, they began their NBA journeys together and it's something that both look back on fondly. Along with their football team, they share a history and a winning mentality that both admire in each other.

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    It's not just their love for a football team that brings Maynor and Matthews together. Both began their NBA careers in the 2009-10 season in Utah with the Jazz. Maynor, now on his third team, has reunited with a player he shared a beginning with. Maynor's Jazz tenure only lasted but 26 games before he was traded to Oklahoma City, but upon arrival, Maynor was quick to mention how helpful it is to have familiar face around in Matthews. It was only 26 games, but both found themselves in the same situation: two four-year college players (an NBA rarity nowadays) who had a work ethic to not only make the league but stay in it and succeed.

    "It was cool. He's one of my good friends," Matthews said of Maynor and their time in Utah. "Even though it was 26 games, there's more time spent than that. There's preseason, there's summer and we both got a Viking connection too."

    "It was cool, something new," Maynor says. "Coming into a league, best league in the world. We were both four year guys. It was fun in Utah while it lasted, I had left early but it was a good time. Wes is a hard worker, good player."

    Maynor says that he and Matthews used to "get it in," and work on their days off as rookies.

    "Some one-on-one stuff with the coaches, get a good workout in, do a lot of that stuff together," said Maynor on what he and Matthews would work on in their Jazz days.

    With both having had the opportunity to play for four years in college, it gave both of them a unique bond. That bond was built from not just the fact that they played for four years, but that both believed they were ready to make an impact the day they walked in the door, so says Maynor.

    "Yeah, because I felt like we were ready. I felt like we were ready when we first walked in there. Because we matured, we matured in college. We go four years, we were already 21 when we get out of school so I think that was a plus."

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    It all seems so funny when looking back on players after a few years in the league. When Maynor and Matthews came in together, Maynor was the first round draft pick who single-handedly took down Duke in the NCAA tournament (20th overall) and Matthews was the overlooked, un-drafted free-agent. Now, Maynor enters a situation where he is trying to prove to his new team in 26 more games to prove that he belongs, while Matthews is one of the team's leaders, the spirit of the locker room.

    But most things haven't changed for the two and it's not just that the Vikings need a receiver, according to Maynor. After his first game, Maynor was up front about trying to help the Trail Blazers into the playoffs and in a new situation, he continues to admire the work ethic of his friend.

    "You've got to love somebody like that, that's just like, body hurting but still going to get after it. We in a position where we're trying to make the playoffs," said Maynor of seeing Matthews play through injury. "For him to just continue to keep working on his body and just give the team what he can give them.

    "It's great," said Matthews about Maynor bringing a winning mentality and confidence to Portland from Oklahoma City. "He's always been to the playoffs. He's got that. He hasn't had a long summer and at no point in time does he want one now."

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    The gyms have changed. The sky just changed again, as it often does in Oregon. But despite the fact their roles, as more established players in the league have changed, the appreciation for each other and the work ethic of Maynor and Matthews hasn't.

    "I don't know what we going to do, they're talking about trading Percy Harvin so we'll see," Maynor says about his Vikings in the draft.

    As both discuss the future of their favorite football team, they have in mind and are working hard for at least the immediate future of their current team.  Whether it's Matthews getting treatment and mentally preparing himself for Wednesday's game against Denver, or Maynor studying video with David Vanterpool, both players are continuing to "get it in," as both still have hopes to will the Trail Blazers in to the postseason.

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