Rumors have been swirling that the Memphis Grizzlies are going to trade O J Mayo, and hopefully Hasheem Thabeet, before the trade deadline on February 24th. Those rumors only intensified after Mayo got the worst of an in-flight argument with starting SG Tony Allen.
To be honest, O J Mayo has been rumored to be on the shopping block since his move to the 6th man role began back on November 20th when he was benched forarriving late to a pre-game shoot-around. Other NBA teams are definitely interested in Mayo who has averaged over 18 ppg as a starter since entering the league.
Fans of Mayo have been surprised, hurt and angered by the team’s decision but these developments shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone watching the Grizzlies moves the last 8 months.
Consider the timeline of events:
June 25, 2010 – Xavier Henry, a 6-6 shooting guard is taken with the 12th pick in the draft. The Grizzlies also draft a PG in the 1st round
July 11, 2010 – Tony Allen,a 6-4 shooting guard is signed to a 3 year contract
July 12, 2010 – O J Mayo tries out at point guard in the summer league and scores 20 pts but also commits 8 turnovers with only 3 assists
July 13, 2010 – Mayo has 17 points, 7 turnovers, 8 fouls and 3 assists in 2nd summer league game
July 14, 2010 – Mayo leaves Grizzlies summer league team to focus on Team USA tryouts
July 28, 2010 – Mayo is cut from Team USA
Sep, 27, 2010 – Coach Lionel Hollins says Mayo is not a point guard at Media Day, Mayo says he can accept criticism but doesn’t agree
Oct. 5, 2010 – 3 Shades of Blue first questions Mayo’s mental outlook on the season
Oct. 27, 2010 – Mayo opens season with 9 pts and no assists in 34 minutes against Atlanta, Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 22 pts
Nov. 20, 2010 – Mayo benched after showing up late for pre-game shoot-around. Team’s record is 4-9 at the time
Nov. 24, 2010 – Hollins announces Mayo is benched in favor of Xavier Henry. Mayo says “he’s not happy”
Dec. 27, 2010 – Henry out with injury, Sam Young starts instead of Mayo
Dec. 29. 2010 – Tony Allen replaces Young as starting SG, Mayo still coming off bench
Jan. 1, 2011 – Mayo reinstated in starting lineup after Henry injury, scores 18 pts but Grizzlies lose at Jazz
Jan. 2, 2011 – Tony Allen returns to starting lineupagainst Lakers
Jan. 3, 2011 – Mayo andAllen get in fight on team plane after Mayo refuses to pay gambling debt
Jan. 6, 2011 – Mayo and Allen say fight is behind them and it’s time to move on
Technically the timeline could have begun on September 10, 2009 when Allen Iverson was signed. It wasn’t long after that signing that Mayo was asked on a local radio show if he would accept coming off the bench to allow Iverson to start. It could be argued that the writing was on the wall that O J Mayo wasn’t working out in Memphis at that time but the AI experiment failed, Mayo kept his starting job and with the winning ways returning all was calm in Memphis last season.
So why did it change this season? Well seeing your teamacquire two players who play the sameposition as you surely has to make a player wonder if the team is confident in your ability. Following that up with the debacle in the summer league point guard experiment andthe disappointing showing with the USA National team and it is clear that Mayo was struggling with a lot of issues heading into the season.
Media Day was a disaster for Mayo as his head coach publicly stated that he had no intention of playing Mayo at the point. Hollins stated that Mayo had a lot of things he needed to work on in his game and would only allow Mayo token minutes at the point. Mayo was a scorer pure and simple in Hollins eyes.Mayo was apparently disappointed in hearing this but he did say he was used to disappointment and thathe would have to work harder to proveHollins wrong.
This dichotomy in perceptions about Mayo’s game was the seed that grew into the mighty oak that has become the problem with O J Mayothis season.Not the fight with Tony Allen,not the benching against Miami or the failure to reclaim the starting roleonce Henry was injured. The root of the problem can be traced right back to this summer when the Grizzlies acquired three new players and all three would becompeting with Mayo for playing time. The conflict grew from a failurefrom the coach and player to get on the same page at the start of training camp. The issue ignited when Mayo stated that he was going to work on parts of his game that kept him from playing more PG andwould prove the coach wrong instead of the weaknesses in his game that prevented him from being successful as a SG that the coach wanted him to be.
And let’s be clear, Mayo has not been a successful SG this season. Opposingstarting SG’s averaged 23.84 ppg against the Grizzlies prior to Mayo being benched.Since his benching opposing teams starting SG’s have averaged only 14.56 ppg.
6 times in the first 13 games the opposing team’s SG was the leading scorer in the game, not just on their team mind you, but the entire game. Four timesMayo’s opponent set a career high in scoring against him. In the 25 games since Mayo’s benchingopposing team’s shooting guards have led the game in scoring only 4 times. Twiceby Kobe Bryant and the Grizzlies won both of those games.
When Mayo startedonly once did he hold an opposing SG under 15 ppg. Since his benching opposing team’s shooting guards have scored under 15 pts 13 times including a string of four games in a row! Fans of Mayo may not want to admit it but those are the facts. Since Mayo was benched the team has done a better job of defending opposing team’s SG.
Still OJ Mayo’s fanspoint outMayo is only shooting 40.8% from the field as a bench player. Obviously the move has hurt his offense and that in turns has hurt the team. That’s true if you compare Mayo’s shooting percentage asa bench player to Mayo’s career numbers. The problem is that Mayo as a starter this season was only shooting 40.8% from the field as well. Perhaps the problem in Mayo’s offense hasn’t come from his benching at all but stems more from his work ethic.
How can a person’s work ethic negatively affect his shooting you ask? Simple. Mayo has been promoted for years as being the type of player that works on his weaknesses while most players just work on what they are good at. Mayo obviously worked hard to improve his PG skills this summer. Kudos for him! But perhaps that also meant he wasn’t working on his prodigious talent as a Shooting Guard and that lack of work is now revealing itself in his poor performance as a shooting guard this season.
People will argue that it was the Grizzlies fault that Mayo has not performed up to expectations and they have a strong argument. Why did they acquire two SG’s this past summer if they felt comfortable with Mayo as their SG of the future? Why did Coach Hollins allow Mayo to believe he would have a legitimate shot at being a PG by letting him play that position in summer league? Why after only two games with rookies did he so forcibly shut the door on the experiment at the beginning of training camp?
Mayo detractors will see it a different way. They will wonder why Mayo insisted on being a PG when the team had made it perfectly clear that that wasn’t the position the team wanted him to play? Yes, Hollins allowed him to try and play the point in summer league butthe coachhad been saying from the beginning that Shooting Guard was his natural position. Why did Mayo leave the camp after only two games if he was serious about playing PG this season? Was the opportunity so great with the national team so great that he would defer working on improving himself for the regular season just for the chance to make the team? Why didn’t he focus on improving himself as a SG as hard as he did to prove he was capable of being a PG?
The fingers will be pointed back and forth for years but the truth of the matter is the time has come to separate the sides. Trade Mayo to a team (hopefully with Thabeet included in the deal) for a solid NBA perimeter PG/SG/SF type ofplayer(s) withexpiring contracts. The money freed up this summer from Thabeet and Mayo’s contracts will make it easier for the Grizzlies to hold onto Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Mayo and Thabeet are owed almost $11million next season. With their salaries off the books the Grizzlies are in excellent fiscal position to sign their big men and still have Allen and Henry to man the SG position.
The only reason not to do this deal would be either no one wants Thabeet and Mayo enough to give up on a prominent bench scorer, Jamal Crawfordand Mike Dunleavy being examples Memphis Slim posted on the Grizzlies message board, or the team is unwilling to admit the mistakes that the front office committed with the highest two draft picks the franchise has had since moving to Memphis.
And the only reason the fans may not support such a move is the fear that the same front office that traded and drafted to acquire these players (missing out on Kevin Love and Tyreke Evans or Stephan Curry in the process) would not be able to get the right deal done.
And that is a legitimate fear.