Eric Maynor Anxious To Reclaim His Role
The world of professional basketball can bring utter joy to its participants and fans, and it can deliver equal doses of heartache. Many of these emotions are tied to the glorious highs of winning and the painful lows of losing, but another occurrence that gives rise to heightened emotions in this game is that dreaded six-letter word: injury.
The word strikes fear in player and supporter alike (not to mention coaches, owners, families, etc.). Add the term “season-ending,” and the responsive feeling is nearly gut-wrenching. When it happens to a key player – even one off the bench – on a playoff-destined team, recovery for both sides suddenly becomes the focus.
This is precisely what happened to Eric Maynor of the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. During the ninth regular season game against the Houston Rockets, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while driving the lane; hearts sunk as his teammates carried him off the floor. He had surgery about ten days later (on Jan. 18th) and was ruled out for the year.
Instead of dropping out of sight while rehabbing, Maynor was spotted throughout the rest of the season on the bench in street clothes cheering for his teammates, both at home games and on the road.
Recently he traveled to Orlando, Florida, to partake in workouts with the team as they participated in the NBA Summer League. When we caught up with Maynor, the obvious question regarding his recovery was posed first.
“The knee’s doing real good,” Maynor shared with HOOPSWORLD. “I’m getting better day by day. That’s why I’m out here just working out, just trying to get healthy.”
Maynor has progressed to the point that he’s now engaged in on-court workouts. He should be back in the saddle fully healthy by the time the Thunder’s training camp starts.
When asked if he thought he would return to the team in previous form (he was averaging 4.2 points and 2.4 assists in 15.2 minutes per game prior to the injury), he said this: “Of course, yes. I’m working toward that.”
The Thunder appear to be in good shape going into the 2012-13 season with Russell Westbrook manning the starting point guard position and Maynor resuming his role as backup. Reggie Jackson looks to remain in the third-string position. Last season, Derek Fisher was acquired when Maynor went down as it became obvious Jackson wasn’t quite ready for the reins.
Jackson had an impressive showing in Orlando (15.3 points, 3.5 assists in four games) while Maynor and teammate Daequan Cook supported the team with their sideline presence.
“They’re playing hard, doing a good job playing together,” Maynor said about the Thunder’s summer league efforts.
Maynor has logged significant time on the bench watching the action for over six months this year. How difficult must it have been to watch his team extend their season all the way to the NBA Finals without him on the court?
“It was tough,” Maynor answered. “It was tough. I just tried to stay strong and help other guys out. It was a great season. I’m looking forward to being back.
“I’m looking forward to trying to make another run like that.”
Maynor deserves credit for maintaining a positive attitude throughout the disappointing turn of events. During the exit interviews, he credited an unlikely source for keeping him focused and on track during the grueling rehabilitation.
“Say if we got put out in the first round,” Maynor began. “Then I’d have to do my rehab with all the guys gone, that part would have been tough on me. Personally, I would put in the work, but on some days, I might come in here and be down a little bit, but them being here, they (were) always just excited. They were in there pushing me and stuff like that.”
Now, he figures he can help his teammates out. With all that time observing the floor, he picked up on certain things not always evident when one is not part of the games’ action.
“I learned some,” he said. “Some stuff I don’t really see when I’m out there on the floor, but I was watching a lot this year.”
Maynor has used terms such as “maturing” and “understanding what it takes” when describing the growth he witnessed from his teammates last season.
Given the noted tight-knit relationship between the players on this team, Maynor has probably already started sharing his insight gathered from the sideline.
“On the road, we’re always together. When we’re at home, we’re always together…not just practice or at games. We always hang out,” Maynor said.
Of course, three of his teammates are about to embark on an experience of a lifetime. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Westbrook, all members of Team USA Basketball, are set to represent the country in the 2012 Olympics in London. It’s quite amazing that three players of the total twelve are from a single NBA team. In fact, it’s never happened before.
“Absolutely happy for them,” said Maynor. “They all deserve it. They work so hard and (I’m) looking forward to seeing them play.
“I’m just excited to be able to get back out there again next year.”
It will be interesting to see how far the Thunder can go this season with their full roster in place. Maynor said he definitely missed out on experiencing the magnitude of playing in the Finals.
“I’ve got to live that out myself. It’s a different feeling just sitting there, and not being ready to play.”
The season will kick off in just over three months; Maynor summed it up from his perspective.
“I’m not going to be behind, I’ll tell you that.”