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NBA@2: Grizzlies Afraid Of Losing O.J. Mayo?
Posted By Bill Ingram On April 18, 2012 @ 2:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in the NBA. The Memphis Grizzlies just aren’t quite sure what they want to do about O.J. Mayo. They have traded him multiple times, pulling out at the last minute each time, with the most recent destinations being Indiana and Boston.
It’s not that Mayo isn’t an important part of the team, or that he isn’t pulling his share of the load. After all, he’s averaging 12.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in his first full season as a sixth-man, placing him among the league’s best reserves. He won’t beat out Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden as the best sixth man in the league, but he’s absolutely in the discussion. Of course, he’s also shown that he can average 18 points per game consistently as a starter, which is likely why the Grizzlies have entertained trade talks. He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer and Memphis may not want to match large offers from teams like Indiana, Boston and Minnesota.
For now, however, the Grizzlies hope that Mayo can help them find their way to the Western Conference Finals and possibly beyond.
“We are committed to him,” Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins told HOOPSWORLD. “We’ve had him since he was a rookie and he’s grown. Early on everyone thought he was a point guard, but he wasn’t. He’s grown into being more of a point guard, but even when he’s playing at point he’s more like Jason Terry. He’s a guy that can play in the pick-and-roll, come off and score and make a play for somebody else versus running offense which, to me, I like a point guard that can score versus one who can’t. You can do a lot more things with that guy than you can for one that’s just trying to pass the ball and so it’s worked out for him. Getting Gil (Arenas), who’s a one/two, and O.J., who’s a one/two, we play any way we want to play. In fact the other night, we’re down, I put Gil in and I put O.J. in. I tell Gil, ‘you handle the ball’ at first and then I tell O.J., ‘you handle the ball after a while.’ What are you going to do? We can play bigger on the wing, we can play smaller with Tony Allen at the three, we can move Rudy to the four and go real small, so it really helps your team.”
This is not the first time Mayo has heard his name come up in trade rumors, and it won’t be the last. He’s had a decent amount of practice tuning out the business of the NBA, and he is working to continue to do so.
“I just try to be a professional and just try to stay focused,” Mayo tells HOOPSWORLD. “I’m happy to be a Memphis Grizzly and they definitely took a chance on draft night to trade to get me and I just want to stay dedicated to the organization and just be a straight up professional and bring it every night that I’m playing.”
Mayo has proven he can start, but he also understands that for the Grizzlies to reach their potential, he may be best served to settle for the sixth-man role.
“When you’re on good teams or great teams, it’s all about roles and understanding your role and understanding being why you’re such a talented team,” says Mayo. “My role is to come off the bench and just pretty much be aggressive offensively, so I accept my role.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t aspire to be a starter once again, however.
“Yeah, I think we all do, but I think the most important thing is winning and with this squad right here, in order for us to be the best team we can be, I think it’s important for me to come off the bench, just so we can have some threats off the bench and be able to win ball games.”
Whether or not Mayo is a real point guard, he is enjoying the challenging of taking on the position for Memphis this season.
“It just gives me an opportunity to be aggressive and definitely find a rhythm and a pace within the game,” Mayo said. “When you’re the point, you dictate the type of pace you want to play at and what you want the team to play at. I’ve definitely gotten comfortable at that position over the years, working at it in the off-season and trying to get better and expand my game a little more so I can be able to play both.”
Whatever the future might hold for Mayo, his focus right now is on the Memphis Grizzlies’ playoff push.
“I think our main thing is just getting healthy and continue playing well together,” Mayo said. “We haven’t been healthy all year so I think the main thing is that we get guys healthy and get back to Memphis Grizzly grit and grime basketball.”
Health is a fleeting thing, especially in this lockout-shortened season. Just as Zach Randolph was starting to get into game shape, center Marc Gasol sustained a hobbling bone bruise. Still, the team has won seven of its last ten games and has a firm hold on the Western Conference’s fifth seed. Four of their remaining five games are against non-playoff teams, so there’s also a very real possibility that they could they could grab home court advantage in the first round. From there, who knows? They were the surprise team of the Western Conference last season, and could very well be a conference finalist this time around.
No matter what happens in postseason action, Mayo will have a huge role to play. The bigger his role, however, the less likely it might be that he returns to Memphis next season.
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The Black Mamba Strikes!
Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant may be sidelined by a left shin injury, but he certainly isn’t taking his time off lying down. Instead he’s been offering head coach Mike Brown advice about the team and even running discussions during timeouts. In his new role as part-time coach, Bryant has gained a better understanding of where his teammates need the ball, and he also sees a benefit to the players who have had to step up in his absence.
“Being around the game for so long, 16 years, I understand where guys need to be and I can communicate it very well,” Bryant told Fox Sports Radio recently. “It’s part of learning how to win a championship, which I’ve been fortunate to do five times. You have to be able to communicate well with your teammates and I think me being out helped me to see where these guys want to have the ball in certain situations. It also gave them the ability to then trust themselves as opposed to saying, ‘I’m not going to step out onto that ledge, I’m not going to be overly aggressive because I have Kobe and Andrew (Bynum) here, so I’m just going to defer to them.’ Now that I’m gone it’s like, ‘no you have to, you have no choice,’ and the fact that they’ve been coming through just gives them a great deal of confidence.”
There is not yet a timetable for Bryant’s return, and he’s not planning on pushing it and risking further injury.
“We’ll see man,” Bryant said. “We’ll see how it goes. The beautiful thing is there is really no rush, right? We’re playing very well and this is the first time ever in my career where I’ve had an opportunity to kind of take my injuries and really be methodical with them and let them heal and get ready for a postseason run. In the past, I didn’t have the luxury of doing that.”
That said, Bryant does think it’s important for him to get back on the court before the playoffs start.
“From experience we had a similar experience, we had a similar situation if you remember back in 2001, when I went down with an ankle injury,” Bryant said. “We started finding a groove, then I came back, we continued to play well, went into the postseason and had a historic run to our second championship at 16-1. I’ve seen this before and I think it’s important to come back before the playoffs because you want to try to get some kind of a rhythm, continuity, and guys are going to have to readjust a little bit and I’m going to have to adjust a little bit, as well. We have to figure some things out and I think it’s important to do that so you’re not going into the postseason cold turkey, so to speak.”
After looking one big step closer to retirement at the end of last season’s playoffs, Bryant has come back stronger than ever this season. He’s even leading the NBA in scoring at 28.1 points per game. Bryant, however, is not concerned about winning the scoring title.
“Alright, let me give you a Black Mamba answer,” Bryant said. “The fact that the question is even asked to me after all these years is silly to me. People, listeners, or whoever thinks that Kobe is really concerned about scoring, stats or about individual play, just look at the facts. Just look at the facts over the last whatever, decade and a half, nobody has won more championships than I have and you can’t be a selfish player or individual player and win that many championships. It just can’t work. Does that answer your question?”
The only question remaining for the Lakers is whether or not they can get Kobe Bryant another ring this season. They’ve had their ups and downs, but right now they are holding onto the West’s third seed by half a game. If they’re going to maintain their hold on third, they’re going to have to face down the West’s two best teams over the final four games. After visiting the Golden State Warriors tonight they play at San Antonio on Friday and then host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
There may be no better time for The Black Mamba to return to his team. If he can lead them to wins over the Spurs and Thunder, it may well serve notice to the rest of the NBA that the Lakers aren’t finished just yet.
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