The clock is ticking, winding down to All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. Starters have been announced, the reserves are revealed this week.
Part of the discussion, as we are all aware, is LaMarcus Aldridge - the primetime power forward who has put up 21 points and nine boards per game and who has taken the reins as the go-to guy. To add to his portfolio, Aldridge is only one-tenth of a point away from being one of just three players in the league to average 25 points and 10 rebounds throughout January.
Having Aldridge in the All-Star Game would definitely energize and fuel the Trail Blazers' thinning roster - as would something else. What if Portland saw two players get face time during All-Star Weekend?
All-Star Weekend in this day and age has put a magnifying glass over one night, during which the elite leapers and finishers showcase their dunking abilities. It's the night before, however, that Portland could - and should - find one of its own.
The T-Mobile Rookie Challenge will open up All-Star Weekend, where rising stars exhibit their talents for the basketball world. Rookies take on second-year players, attempting to establish themselves as superior. This year, the Trail Blazers could - and should - be represented.
Wesley Matthews came into Portland after serving one season with the Utah Jazz, where he emerged as a pleasant surprise, starting in more than half of Utah's matchups and posting nearly 10 points per game.
This season followed suit. Matthews was projected to come off the bench, bring energy to the floor - mostly on the defensive end, as that was his specialty. Then, Brandon Roy went down with knee problems. And Wesley Boy Wonder stepped up.
Granted, Matthews contributed a little more than nine points per game in nearly 22 minutes a night, but he was asked to lace up the shoes of a three-time All-Star, the face of the franchise.
Eleven games in, Matthews became a starter. He wasted no time fitting in. In his debut, Matthews erupted for what was then a career-high 30 points, hitting 11 of his 19 attempts from the field en route to Portland's 100-99 win against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Matthews continued to improve - game to game, practice to practice, month to month. By the month, here's how his scoring compared: 10.0 (Oct.), 13.9 (Nov.), 18.6 (Dec.) and 16.9 (Jan.). He's increased his three-point shooting from 17.6 percent as a reserve at the beginning of the year to nearly 40 percent from long range, as his scoring has peaked at 18.4 points per contest as a starter.
Now, Matthews has stood out from the rest of his class, thanks to hard work and the competition struggling not only from the floor, but to stay on the floor. He ranks second among sophomores in points per game at 16.1, trailing only Evans, who has played seven fewer games. Matthews also sits in the top five with 1.26 thefts per contest and leads all second-year players with 86 three-pointers made.
He's become a catalyst for success, averaging three more points during Trail Blazer victories and shooting better than 45 percent from the field in Portland wins. This is a guy who has reset 12 career marks, including points (36), three-pointers made (7), assists (9) and steals (4).
To omit Matthews from the Rookie Challenge is to disregard simple statistics; To ignore hard work, discipline and noticeable improvement. Matthews has remained one of the healthiest athletes in his class and has become reliable. He's registered at least 20 points in 17 games since that 30-point outburst on Nov. 16, including a 36-point effort in Minnesota, where Matthews broke the franchise record for most three-balls made in one half with seven.
Matthews' confidence continues to grow with each game, with each practice. His dedication, determination and performance continues to impress fans, coaches and players. Aldridge may wind up at the Staples Center as a reserve - as well he should - but Matthews deserves to step on the hardwood for the Rookie Challenge, to represent Rip City.
The clock is ticking. Will our heroes be honored?