Wes Matthews said yesterday the Bullets made the wrong move in trading him to Atlanta for Don Collins, "but this is a business, so I have to accept it."
"I was shocked at first," Matthews said. "(Bullet Coach) Gene (Shue) just told me he traded me and that was about it. He said he needed a small forward and I was what they had to give up to get one.
"The thing that's hard for me is that I was just starting to feel comfortable and I was adapting to the pro game. But I wasn't playing as much lately and we needed some help, so I guess I could see it coming. It was still tough to leave, though."
Collins arrived yesterday and will make his Bullet debut tonight at Capital Centre against the Utah Jazz. Matthews played for the Hawks in Phoenix Sunday night and scored 10 points in a losing cause.
The rap against Matthews was that he was uncontrollable on the floor and Shue felt comfortable with him running the team. He leads the National Basketball Association in turnovers per minute, committing one every 7.79 minutes he is on the floor.
When the Bullets drafted Matthews, 20, in the first round after his junior year at Wisconsin, they knew he occasionally played out of control.
"We knew he was a player who took a lot of chances with the ball, but he had such potential," Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry said. "The only question was if he could slow down and control himself."
The answer: Matthews couldn't calm down to the Bullets' specifications, and so, he was traded.
"Everything I did wrong was out of carelessness," Matthews said, "but I was toning myself down and getting better at taking care of the ball. I was handling the ball so much that I was bound to make mistakes, though.
"I might not have been the Dennis Johnson they wanted on defense, but I was a rookie and they had to realize that I was going to make mistakes. I can play the game on any team anywhere. I could play on Mars if they had a team there, but I'd still make some mistakes. Mistakes are part of the game."
Ferry said that if injuries had not felled small forwards Bob Dandridge And Carlos Terry, there would have been no need to acquire Collins. They also could have been more patient with Matthews.
But their needs have changed dramatically since they drafted Matthews. Game after game, their need for a free-lance type of offensive player like Collins became more and more evident. With Kevin Porter playing so well, Matthews became expendable.
Matthews, Kevin Grevey and Mitch Kupchak were the three most sought after Bullets whenever Ferry talked trade, but Grevey and Kupchak will be free agents next season, so teams are leery of acquiring them until they are signed. Matthews has a long-term contract.
Ironically, Ferry says he almost drafted Collins instead of Matthews. He now calls the one-for-one swap "a terrific move for us. It's the most even trade I can imagine. Two clubs filled their needs at different positions."
Just before the draft, the Bullets made a deal with Golden State for their second-round draft pick, the 25th pick overall.
"We thought we had an outside chance to get Collins with that pick," Ferry said, "but Atlanta took him. Atlanta had wanted to draft Wes, too, but we took him." (The Bullets took Matthews with the 14th pick of the first round and the Hawks took Collins with the 18th pick).
"It's funny because I had scouted Collins a lot more than I had scouted Matthews," Ferry said. "I'd seen him his whole college career and I had as thorough a book on him as you could have. But Wes dropped into the hardship so quickly that we only saw him play three or four times. We drafted him basically on what we saw in the tryout camp we had before the draft."
There had been talks between the Bullets and Hawks about a Collins-Matthews swap virtually all season long, and finally, with both teams floundering, they decided to make the deal.
Ferry says the Bullets did not make a mistake in drafting Matthews, saying the needs of the team have changed since then. He also considers the Collins trade as one of the best he's made.
"He (Collins) is such a great fast break player," Ferry said. "He could be the best runner we've ever had, and he can get his points on his own. That's the kind of player Gene likes."
The Bullets have had good success with their No. 1 draft choices in the past. They drafted Grevey in 1975, Kupchak and Wright in 1976, Ballard in 1977 and Roger Phegley and Dave Corzine in 1978. All are either with the Bullets or playing in the league. They didn't have a No. 1 draft choice in 1979.