Mike Terry, Deseret News
Portland's Wesley Matthews returned to Utah on Thursday and scored 21 points against his former Jazz teammates.

SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn't the Howard Eisley treatment, and certainly not the Derek Fisher treatment.

To the contrary, Wesley Matthews was mostly appreciated Thursday night.

He didn't receive quite as many cheers as rookie Gordon Hayward, mind you, but he did get plenty more than the 270 episodes a certain sitcom set in Boston lasted.

"It was a great feeling," Matthews said of the reception from Jazz faithful who sometimes treat their returning ex-players like villains. "You know, the fans have always been great."

Matthews might have been jeered in his first appearance at EnergySolutions Arena since signing a five-year, $32.5 million offer sheet with Portland that - for mostly financial reasons - the Jazz declined to match.

Instead, before scoring a game-high 21 points for the Trail Blazers in Utah's 100-96 preseason-opening win, the Marquette University product was welcomed with sincere warmth.

Matthews' fondness for his first NBA team is equally genuine.

"Some people may say it's homey and cheesy," he said, "but I know from the bottom of my heart I'm not here without Utah."

Matthews made something of himself from virtually nothing, going from undrafted in 2009 to one of the 2010 summer shopping market's hottest restricted free agents.

It's the sort of story that makes even Jazz coach Jerry Sloan grin.

"That's what you coach for," Sloan said.

"Jerry loves that," Jazz shooting guard Raja Bell added. "For a guy to come in unheralded, undrafted, and make something out of himself, especially that quickly — it's a testament to him, and the work that he put in, but it's also a testament to the Jazz and the way they helped him blossom here."

Shortly after Utah's '09-10 season ended with a second-round playoff loss to the NBA-champion Los Angeles Lakers, Matthews came to realize just how much his development from roster longshot to end-of-the-season starting shooting guard truly meant to Sloan.

"I remember him telling me in my exit interview he was proud of me, and the path I had taken," Matthews said. "That meant a lot, coming from a Hall of Fame coach who's all about hard work and 'keep fighting, keep fighting; you never know what tomorrow's gonna bring.' "

Matthews brought that mindset Thursday, but left dispirited following a 6-for-15 from the field shooting performance.

"This one was terrible for me," said Matthews, who scored a team-high 20 in Portland's Tuesday exhibition win over the Los Angeles Clippers. "You know, I'm so mad at myself right now. ... I wasn't doing what I supposed to be doing on the defensive end, and I was forcing things."

Matthews — who came off the bench on the wing, logging a game-high 38 minutes in what could foreshadow his anticipated sixth-man role in Portland — did have a chance to atone.

He drove the lane with 30.9 seconds left, hoping to tie the game at 98.

After getting bumped by Jazz center and ex-teammate Kyrylo Fesenko, though, his shot didn't drop.

"I told Fes he fouled me," Matthews joked. "He knows he did, but it was a no-call."

Matthews said he "of course" wanted the ball to fall. But he knows he was in the minority at the home of a team full of what he calls "my guys."

"I'm sure a lot of people," Matthews said, "were rooting for me not to make it."

Utah kindness, apparently, goes only so far.

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com