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New Laker Wesley Matthews gets emotional talking about Kobe Bryant

Wesley Matthews, playing for Milwaukee, retreats on defense after making a three-pointer against Orlando during the playoffs.
Wesley Matthews retreats on defense after making a three-point shot against the Magic during the playoffs.
(Kim Klement / Associated Press)

Wesley Matthews apologized for becoming “emotional” while talking about how the late Kobe Bryant helped him through his Achilles tendon injury.

Matthews opened his videoconference Tuesday by saying he was honored to have been signed by the Lakers and how special it was to be playing for the same franchise his dad, Wes Matthews, did during the late 1980s.

When he was asked about working his way back from that injury and becoming a source of inspiration for others in the NBA who have dealt with an Achilles tear, Matthews recalled the moment he got a surprising call from Bryant.

Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon on April 14, 2013, and famously walked back onto the court to shoot two free throws, dragging his left leg along.

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Matthews suffered his injury on March 5, 2015, while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers.

“One of the people that helped me through mine — rest in peace — was Kobe,” Matthews said. “I had no idea.”

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Matthews paused for a few seconds.

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Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in January.

“Um. Damn, I didn’t really mean to get emotional,” Matthews continued. “Um, he hit me up. … He didn’t have my number and we didn’t reach out any time before that. But I’m pulling into my driveway and I remember I get a call and I have no idea what this number is and it’s Kobe and he was just sharing his wisdom about it and it really helped motivate me, because he was honest. And he said it was hard, you know? He said it’s going to be hard.

“And at the time, that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s what I needed to hear because I don’t want anything sugarcoated. I want to know what it was I was going to have to go through and that helped. He was always an outlet for me and I like to think I can be that for other people.”

Matthews said he has shared his wisdom to players like Rodney Hood, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, all of whom have had Achilles tendon injuries.

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“This thing is a fraternity, it’s a brotherhood, it really is,” Matthews said. “You never want to see anybody go down. And if you’ve been through something, then you want to share it. You always want to pass it down and pass it on. And that’s one thing that Kobe did for me, and I wish that I could thank him again. But if I could be that for other people, I’ll gladly do that.”

Matthews, who signed a one-year deal for the biannual exception of $3.6 million, talked about how he came from a single-parent household in which he was raised by his mother, Pam Moore.

He talked about how over time he and his dad grew “much closer than we were growing up.”

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Matthews’ father won NBA championships with the Lakers in 1987 and ’88.

Now Matthews, who averaged 7.4 points and made 36.4% of his three-pointers last season in Milwaukee, seeks a championship as well.

“My dad sent me a message not too long ago and he told me that, on my birthday, he signed his contract to become a Laker, and I’ve got a picture that I’ve always had, of him in warmups,” Matthews said. “I’m on the court. I’m in an all-denim suit and he’s handing me a basketball in the Forum.

“I’m a little bit younger than the age that my daughter is now and so like just to see everything coming full circle. It’s really only God can write a story like this and it’s not done yet. But it’s sentimental. Growing up, Lakers was always one of my favorite teams, the Bulls, Lakers. Eddie Jones is one of my favorite basketball players of all time, so Laker roots run pretty deep with me as far as being a fan growing up and obviously the ties with my father.”

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Etc.

The Lakers announced earlier Tuesday that they had officially signed center Marc Gasol and that they had waived Jordan Bell, who had been acquired from Cleveland when they traded JaVale McGee.


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