DALLAS – Wesley Matthews participated in contact drills for the first time since rupturing his left Achilles tendon in March.
Matthews, the shooting guard the Dallas Mavericks signed to a four-year, $70 million deal this summer, went through full-speed 5-on-5 work during Monday’s practice.
“It feels real good. I need that,” Matthews said. “I’ve been accelerating at a good rate, the rate that I thought I would be. It was good to get out there with the guys and compete, get hit, take hits and keep moving. It was a good first showing, and I’m excited for the next one.
“This is the first time I’ve played actual basketball in over six months. Obviously I’m not me yet, but that will come. That will come quickly.”
Matthews, who earned the nickname “Iron Man” during his five-year tenure with the Portland Trail Blazers, has consistently insisted that he plans to be ready to play in the Mavs’ Oct. 28 season opener. Coach Rick Carlisle has called that “a long shot” but is encouraged by Matthews’ progress.
“It’s exciting, because he’s out there and he looks good, but let’s keep our eye on the ball,” Carlisle said. “It’s one day.”
It’s still uncertain whether Matthews will play in any preseason games or even early in the regular season, as is the case with small forward Chandler Parsons, who is recovering from hybrid microfracture knee surgery and has yet to do contact work.
Matthews said he didn’t think about his surgically repaired Achilles tendon at all while running, cutting and jumping during Monday’s practice. He acknowledged that he was curious to see how his body will respond the next day – a day off for him with the Mavs traveling to Tulsa for a preseason game – but confident that it will respond well.
Asked if the contact work made him more optimistic that he’d be ready for the beginning of the regular season, Matthews said: “I was optimistic after I tore it. This doesn’t change anything for me.”