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Ball Don't Lie

Rick Carlisle lashes out at the struggling O.J. Mayo, begging for him to ‘compete’

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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O.J. Mayo struggles on Monday as Rick Carlisle looks on ... angrily (Getty Images)

O.J. Mayo’s first and possibly only season in Dallas is ending on a low, low note. While Mayo is a talent and far from a head case, and the Mavericks have had about as tough as NBA seasons get through no fault of their own, these are the results that need to be remembered.

These are the sorts of columns that you want to bookmark and send out to a dozen desperate NBA teams in late July. The sort of squads that whiffed on high-end free agents (who stayed with their incumbent teams) or watched as other franchises overpaid for the leftovers. The teams that may be forced into talking themselves into a player like O.J. Mayo. A fine player, no doubt, stuck in a tough year. But one to mull over before signing, especially in the wake of his listless play to end Dallas’ rough 2012-13 season.

[Also: Source: Reggie Bullock declaring for NBA draft]

ESPN Dallas’ Tim McMahon details the immediate aftermath of a particularly poor stretch of play (turnovers, listless defense) from Mayo, and the in-game and post-game comments from Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle that resulted:

“I called that timeout just to get you out of the game!” Carlisle screamed at Mayo in the huddle, according to one player.

[…]

“I just want to see him show up,” said Carlisle, who was as harsh publicly with a player as he’s been since calling out Lamar Odom at the end of the his strange midseason sabbatical. “I just want to see him show up and compete. He didn’t compete tonight.

“And I tell you, with all the time we’ve put into helping him develop and bringing him along, in the biggest game of the year -- an opportunity to be a winning team -- for him to show up like he did tonight, I was shocked.”

[…]

“He just had a bad night,” Carlisle said after making a point to mention that the coaches showed Mayo film at halftime “where he was virtually just standing around defensively” and essentially implored him to mentally check into the game. “I guess I’ll write it off to that.”

In reference to Mayo’s awful second half of the season performances and Dallas’ final games of the season on Wednesday, Carlisle offered this:

“Well,” Carlisle said, “the good news is there’s only an opportunity for one more.”

Yikes.

Now, in the midst of the postgame comments, Carlisle did go out of his way to tell reporters that “look, sometimes guys have bad nights, so make sure to put that in there, too.” This is completely fair. And you can easily understand why Mayo is so frustrated, right now.

This is a player that was treated like a commodity in high school, disappointed somewhat because he somehow didn’t turn into the second-coming of Oscar Robertson in college, and was traded to a second NBA team the day he was drafted. That was O.J. Mayo merely as he was caught entering the NBA.

[Also: Nerlens Noel entering NBA draft, may be top pick]

Though we don’t blame the Grizzlies for seeing what they could get for O.J., Mayo was dangled as trade bait for years (even reportedly watching as one deal was signed off on during the 2011 trade deadline) before finally leaving the team as a free agent last summer. In a post-lockout offseason, the market for Mayo was slim, and he had to settle for a two-year $8.2 million deal that features a player option for 2013-14.

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O.J. Mayo is a good guy in a rough season (Getty Images)

On top of that, as McMahon noted, on Monday Mayo was working against his former team from Memphis in the loss. Typically players tend to rise above while going against a former team, but most former teams don’t feature All-NBA defender Tony Allen at the shooting guard spot. As a result, O.J. averaged just 8.5 points per game on 35 percent shooting in four contests against Memphis this year.

Mayo came into February averaging around 18 points per game for the Mavericks, in what appeared to be a turnaround year. A dip down in average was expected as Dirk Nowitzki returned to full health and rightfully garnered more touches, but Mayo dropped three points per game from month to month to month in February, March, and now April – where he’s shooting below 40 percent and managing just nine points per game despite playing 34 minutes a contest for a team that for an April shower was considered a playoff hopeful.

This has been the pattern since the beginning of Mayo’s career, hot starts and dulled finishes. In each of those seasons he’s had a midseason excuse – regression to the mean, an NBA that caught up with a teenaged rookie’s moves, trade deadline chatter, the frustrating 2012-13 Dallas Mavericks – but it’s still a pattern.

We like Mayo, and you can also tell (because of the caveats he keeps dropping excusing his play on Monday) Rick Carlisle appears to like him as well, even after this long season. The issue at hand is that Mayo’s play has remained at about the same level over his five-year NBA career. He’s good, not great, and good-but-not-great players can’t afford to disappear as often as O.J. does.

[Also: Draft prospect Norvel Pelle never played college hoops]

The Mavericks/Grizzlies replay from Monday is on NBA TV at 1:30 Eastern on Tuesday afternoon, NBA GMs. It’s not O.J. Mayo in full, but it could be what you’re dealing with (for perhaps three or four guaranteed years) if things don’t go especially right. DVR that contest, NBA GMs, and let’s catch up in July.

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