Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons are many things. They're good friends, on and off the court. They were rehab partners this summer, Matthews recovering from an Achilles rupture while Parsons returned from a hybrid microfracture knee surgery. They also have plans to be the best wing duo in the league, starting at shooting guard and small forward for the Dallas Mavericks.
In Monday's 103-93 win against the Bucks, the potential of that duo together began to show itself. Parsons, elevated into the starting lineup for the first time in a few weeks, played a season-high 37 minutes with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Matthews, meanwhile, scored 22 points with five made shots from downtown.
"We're not anywhere close to where we can be as a tandem, as a duo," Matthews said. "We have flashes of it. Again, just learning each other's games. We missed four months of playing together, four months of learning how each other reads and reacts. Me and (Nic) Batum (in Portland) had a chemistry where we didn't even have to talk. We didn't get that until some point in year two (of playing together). I'm not saying that's going to be the case here. We're nowhere near but we're on that path and it's going to be scary when we get there."
The Mavericks knew this when they signed Matthews and when Parsons went down last May. They've played the long game with both, limiting Matthews on back-to-backs early in the season and keeping Parsons on a rigid minutes restriction that's only now being fully lifted.
"We are getting there, but I don't think there's going to be any magic date," head coach Rick Carlisle said. "Both of these guys stated very clearly when their injuries happened that their goal was not only to be back, but to be back better than they were before. And to do that, it is going to be a long term proposition. I think that both of these guys understand that. Parsons has gained a lot of respect for what it is like to go through something like this. He has never had an injury like this. ... Wes is going through the same thing."
Matthews feels great physically, in part because he recently switched shoes: from a high-top pair of Kobe's to a pair with less ankle support. He was tying his high-tops so tight that he developed a knot on one of his ankles, he said, and so the move was only about comfort. But the reason he initially stuck with the high-tops, the same shoes he wore last year, was more than that.
"Physically, I feel good," Matthews said. "Honestly, this shoe change was big. I think it's more of a macho arrogance thing for me to wear the shoe I tore (the Achilles) in. To get back on the horse and all that stuff."
Although his shot has ebbed and flowed throughout this season -- his 37 percent field goal shooting and 35 percent 3-point shooting are still both well below his career averages -- Matthews knows there's plenty of time for his game to come together. His results on Monday wasn't because he was getting better shots, but just because he had a "better flow."
"(It's) still a process," Matthews said. "Game 31, we haven't even played them all, haven't even played them all together, not even starting together (until) right now. It's gonna happen."
Dirk Nowitzki, long-time and long suffering face of the Mavericks franchise, had an abnormally poor shooting night on Monday. His 3-of-15 line was only the sixth time he's taken so many shots with as low a field goal percentage, and clearly the aberration won't hold. But as Dallas continually tries to make things easy for Dirk, there will be nights like Monday where the Matthews-Parsons duo will be asked to lead the team. In fact, come playoffs, that may be the nightly expectation -- especially if these two can live up to their "best wing combo in the league" prediction.
Even if it doesn't happen this season, those two are the Mavericks' future. They've invested a lot in both men to grow into franchise centerpieces. Monday's results only reassured Dallas that both Matthews and Parsons were up for the task.