Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks guard and one of the team's most promising free-agent acquisitions, already has proven to be a valuable asset (who's also exciting to watch). We met with the 29-year-old Wisconsin native at Del Frisco's Grille in Uptown to get to know what life has been like off the court since moving to Dallas—from the road to recovery during preseason to the transition to a new team (and new town). Scroll down for some of Matthews' picks on what to do in Dallas and photos from our shoot in Uptown.
You’ve been here for a while now. What has it been like adjusting to Dallas? I’ve been here since the summer when I was looking for a house, and it's been really good. Dallas is awesome—it’s my first real big city. My first "big city" was in Utah, and then Portland [playing with the Trailblazers] for five years.
Portland is definitely a lot different from Dallas. Yeah, Portland is different, and it’s great in it’s own way, but [there’s] just such a variety of everything in Dallas. Plus, I have family down here—so many cousins I couldn’t even tell you.
Between recovering from an injury, practice and conditioning schedules and moving here over the summer, have you had time to relax or explore Dallas? It’s the off-season, which has been all rehab and training, trying to get back to full strength to be ready for the season. It’s still an ongoing thing (I don’t know when it’s ever going to stop really!); but everything’s been good and healthy, and I continue to get stronger and better every single day.
How have Dallas Mavericks teammates been helping you adjust to the city? Do they tell you where to go or what to do in the area? I get a lot of recommendations from Chandler [Parsons], and from the whole organization, really. They’ve been great—welcoming and embracing me, so it’s been a smooth transition. But I think Chandler’s usually who I go to first, and he’s usually really quick on it so I’ve never really had to ask anybody else.
1. He has great taste in television.
What do you enjoy doing for fun around here? Winning games! But I haven’t really gotten into much lately. Between schedules for rehab, practice, games and travel (and we’re still getting the house in order), I mainly just want to relax when I get a chance.
So hang out, watch TV, stuff like that? What TV shows are you into? Exactly. I like “Modern Family” (I actually just got an alert from iTunes that I have a new "Modern Family" to watch); “Game of Thrones” (I’m sad that’s over [the season]); “How to Get Away with Murder”… I’m mad that I’m still watching “Scandal,” but I’m so far into it now I might as well keep going.
2. He likes playing pool.
Would you consider yourself more of a homebody, since you’re always on the go? I’m definitely a homebody. Every once in a while I might want to go try to find a nice place to shoot pool … But I can’t even tell you the last time I went to go see a movie.
What types of places do you go home to visit back home? I still have a home there and I’m there every off-season, but my main hub/hideout there is my friends’ restaurant called Diamond’s Pizza Place, and I’m there like every day when I’m home.
Do they have a pool table? They don’t, but they need a pool table there! I should invest in that; it can be my contribution.
Do you get to explore other cities when you’re on the road? Yeah, it depends on the timing and scheduling and everything, but between everybody, especially with this team, it’s pretty cool because everybody’s come from different teams and they’re a veteran team so everybody’s got their favorite restaurants and all that in certain cities, so it’s kind of cool to experience different restaurants other than what you would normally do. Like for me, my restaurant was Truluck’s every time I came into Dallas.
What are some of your other favorite places to go when traveling? I don’t know the names of all of them (my teammates do, though), but Gladys' in Atlanta I like a lot; also Katana in LA, but I know there’s more.
How do you like to spend your free time in the summer or during off-season? I take probably two or three trips during the summer just to get away for a bit. The Bahamas was cool; with Nike I spent time in China and just recently I did an NBA Cares event in the Phillippines, which was a lot of fun. Hawaii and Cabo have always been good too.
What’s your favorite kind of food? I’m actually more into home cooking; that’s my favorite. I’m looking forward to finding a good soul food restaurant; I haven’t had that in a while.
3. He's a fan of the Dallas city skyline.
You mentioned the variety of everything in Dallas-Fort Worth. What types of things are you most enjoying about the city so far? I think that’s been the biggest thing: The city. Driving into town you see the skyline, you see the big green building, you see American Airlines Center—it’s a big city but it’s not overwhelming, and obviously the weather is a huge change from where I grew up.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced while transitioning to Dallas? Probably the restriction of playing under a minute [per game] and being limited as far as timing and trying to get adjusted to playing ball with a new system, the team and the players—it’s one thing to do that at full strength but it’s another thing to do it when you’re restricted, but it’s coming along.
I’ve put in a lot of time and a lot of work into rehab. Based on other recovery times for the same injury, we’re ahead of schedule. For me to be playing the way that I am right now this soon is definitely ahead of the curve.
It seems like Mavs fans have been really receptive to you becoming a part of the team. Would you agree? Yeah, it’s been great. I’m very humble and thankful for that; I want to give the fans all of who I am every single night. I feel like if I do that I improve my chances of winning them over.
What are some of your goals or resolutions for 2016? To remain healthy; obviously, to win as many games as possible; and to just have fun and try to be happy every single day. More often than not, what we do for a living is a blessing and not many people will get the chance to experience that — not just being a professional athlete, but doing what you love, and I try not to lose sight of that.
4. If he wasn't playing basketball, he'd be playing soccer.
Who or what inspired you to pursue your basketball career? It was actually my mom who raised me–my mom, my grandma, uncle—and I always played basketball; well, I always played every sport. I was actually a better soccer player than I was a basketball player, but I think I naturally gravitate towards basketball.
Are you still interested in playing or watching soccer? Both. I miss playing. This kind of weather reminds me of soccer, especially back home in Wisconsin, this is the kind of weather we get in September/October [during the soccer season].
5. He wants to go the Perot Museum. And the aquarium.
For visitors coming into Dallas, what should they check out? Something I want to do that I haven’t done yet is check out the museum near American Airlines Center—the Perot Museum. And there’s also an aquarium [the Dallas World Aquarium] I haven’t been to yet. Obviously, they should come to a game. Really, they should just go to any restaurant—every one I’ve been to has been amazing.
When you’re with the team after a win, is there a place you guys go to celebrate? I mainly just follow my teammates around, but I’ve been to So and So’s right around here [in Uptown] and it was a pretty good time. I had my birthday at Candle Room [last month] and it was fun. Actually all of my teammates came out to my birthday, so that was cool.
Happy belated birthday! How old are you? Thank you! 29. I know…old [laughs]!
What advice would you give to younger fans who are into basketball or other sports about succeeding or following your passion? Take risks, follow that passion and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s only a failure if give up after it. If it doesn’t work according to plan, find a different way to get there. My path to the NBA wasn’t the most scripted or traditional way, but I’m here now, and I didn’t let go of the dream and belief that I was an NBA player.
Before you signed with the Mavericks, what were some of the things that intrigued you as a visitor of the city? Well, the weather. But I liked that my family was here. So I knew every time I came to Dallas I’d have family in town. I grew up where family was the most important thing so being able to be around that still has been tremendous, so I guess I always associated Dallas with being home.
6. He's a Vikings fan.
Do you frequently get to meet up with family? I’ve got a lot of older family here, but some of my cousins came out for my birthday. They're at every game though...Sometimes they come over after games or if I’m around we watch football; most of my family are Packers fans but I’m a Vikings fan, so there’s a lot of playful competition.
So you haven’t switched over to being a Cowboys fan yet? I’ve always been a Vikings fan. But when that whole thing was going on with Adrian Peterson possibly coming to Dallas, I would have been the biggest Cowboys fan!
7. He's into fantasy football.
Do you ever pay attention to fantasy sports – basketball or football? Fantasy football, absolutely. I'm just in one league with my friends back home. We are 8-1 this season so far! My guys are showing up every week; I just put them in the positions and they take care of the rest.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: OUT & ABOUT IN UPTOWN [SLIDESHOW]
(All photos: ©Michael Holtberg/Kin Yau Photography)