Wesley Matthews

ATLANTA — NBA retiree Wes Matthews went for long stretches without a hands-on role in Wesley Matthews' day-to-day life.

But he was quite the proud papa Friday night, seeing — for the first time in his life — his 23-year-old son play a pro game.

"It's a beautiful moment for me to watch my offspring do something he loves," Matthews said at halftime of the Jazz's loss to the Atlanta Hawks, one of his former teams. "He's worked so hard for me to get where he is, so it's just, like, I try to be cool, but it's a warm, fuzzy feeling.

"That's my man. Not only is he my son, that's my friend."

Matthews — who played nine NBA seasons for six clubs — watched from a third-row seat near centercourt at Philips Arena.

"It was cool," said Matthews, who was raised by his mother — Pam Moore — in Madison, Wisc. "But whether my father was here or not, I wanted to win."

It's an attitude the old man, so to speak, is not surprised his son would have.

Nor is his early NBA success, despite the fact Wesley Matthews went undrafted last June out of Marquette University.

"I see the demeanor, and the hustle, but Wes is a little more advanced than I (was) defensively as a rookie. I didn't have the ability that he has as a rookie," the elder Matthews said. "He's a leader, as well as a person that gets the job done. He likes to work hard, and myself, I was more of a scrappier, take-chance defensive player, where he's a more sound defensive player."

That his son is starting for the Jazz makes the whole experience that much more surreal.

"For (Jazz coach) Jerry (Sloan) to trust him as much as he does," he said, "it's ... got to be every father's, every parent's, dream to see this."

Father and son text each other almost daily these days, and the communication centers mostly on hoops.

The main message: "Enjoy the moment."

"Right now, I'm just happy to see him get his feet wet," he said, promising that the "full package" is yet to come. "Whenever he needs me, he knows I'm available, I'm a phone call away.

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"I know that Sloan is giving it to him one way, and I just try to soften the blow a little bit," added the elder Matthews, who holds the opponent record for most assists in a quarter against the Jazz when he dished 10 while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, the team with which he won two NBA titles. "But we just talk basketball, from my perspective to his."

The elder Matthews — now a private trainer living in the Atlanta area — plans to get to Utah soon to watch some games, and he'll be in Charlotte tonight when the Jazz play the Bobcats.

As he watches, son can sense the pride.

"I know he's proud," said Wesley Matthews, who spent much of Thursday visiting in his home with his father. "I mean, everybody back home is — my mom, grandma, aunt, everybody."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com