STAT LINE OF THE SEASON
21 points (8-14 from the field, 5-8 from 3), 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds versus Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 4
2012-13 will go down as the season in which the inevitable finally caught up with Wesley Matthews. After playing through various injuries throughout the course of his NBA career, injuries that would have sidelined most of his contemporaries, Matthews finally had to relinquish his consecutive games played streak at 250 after a hip flexor caused him to miss the Dec. 10 game against the Toronto Raptors. It was the first time since his freshman year at Marquette that he missed a game, ending a streak spanning 364 games in which Matthews suited up and played for his respective team.
"You don't want to be counterproductive right now," Matthews said at the time. "So many things weigh
into whether you play, whether you sit. If you do sit, how long do you
sit. I've never been in a position where I had to do that, so it's all
new to me."
Unfortunately, that wouldn't be the only game Matthews would miss. He went on to play in 69 games, an impressive feat given the various injuries he endured this season, but for a player whose entire NBA career has been predicated on beating the odds, sitting out 13 games was nearly unbearable.
At least, that is, until he had some time to reflect on the punishment he was putting his body through while playing despite injuries to his ankles, hip and bicep.
"I think missing a game, that streak that I had it was great, it was fun, but I think it opened my eyes to I have to take care of my body," said Matthews. "There was times during that streak where I should have sat out and who knows if I would have sat out one game or one day, this season could have been prevented as far as injuries. In talking to vets -- talked to Kobe, talked to CP and Chauncey Billups -- and they’re like ‘You gotta take care of your body, you have a long career ahead of you, you have to take care of your body.’ And I think I just took it for granted."
That realization, that there really are times when a player must pick his battles, might have been Matthews' most important area of growth this season. His 2012-13 statistics were remarkably similar to his output from lockout-shortened 2011-12 season (case in point: his PER for both 2011-12 and 2012-13 was 14.1), a season in which he battled through a seemingly endless string of ankle and foot issues (he said at the end of the 2011-2012 season that there were times he couldn't feel his foot). His assist percentage did increase from 8.3% to 11.9%, which might have been a byproduct, albeit a positive one, of all the injuries (we saw the same thing this season with Nicolas Batum). Same goes for his defensive rating, which worsened to 111 in 2012-13 after posting a career-best 108 in 2011-12.
Even while hobbled, Matthews has continued provide skills, primarily 3-point shooting and on-ball defense, that make him a valuable player on any team
. He no longer needs to prove that he belongs in the NBA, something he's set out to do in all 299 games of his professional career, even when he wasn't healthy enough to be on the floor.