For the first time in O.J. Mayo‘s well-documented career, he’s being slept on. After years of shine, in which he was called the “next LeBron” from the eighth grade on, and was featured on ESPN as one of the super-freshmen during his one and only college season at USC, things have changed for Mayo. NBA analysts have killed the Grizzlies over the summer for trading Mike Miller and the fifth pick (Kevin Love) to grab O.J. at three. At 6-4, he’s been given the ominous “tweener” label – is he too selfish to play the point? Is he big enough to get his shot off at the two?
I think it’s a dangerous recipe. After being told how wonderful he was for years, O.J. seems like the kind of kid who can channel this negativity into fuel. Though everyone has their own take on his infamous battle with Lance Stephenson at ABCD camp a few years back, there’s no doubt that the smack elevated his game.
Even though training camp doesn’t start until tomorrow in Memphis, there are early signs that O.J. has already elevated his game.
“I really, really like him,” said Marc Iavaroni. “Rookies are rookies but this guy doesn’t behave like a rookie, he hasn’t played like a rookie and as strong as his tangibles are, I think his intangibles are stronger. I’m talking about an unwillingness to accept losing, playing with a chip on his shoulder, trying to play good defense and being a leader out there. I just told him ‘You look good on tape. You look a lot better in person.'”
In fact, when we got up with Rudy Gay at his spot in suburban Baltimore for the next installment of Dime Fashion, he talked about O.J. Mayo as if the rookie was already a proven leader on the Grizzlies. That’s not just because O.J. looks like a 35-year old professor when he puts his glasses on. It’s because he’s probably the second-most capable scorer on the roster right now behind Rudy.
Count Iavaroni and Gay as being in Mayo’s corner. But the more that others question his ability to succeed in this league, the more dangerous he’ll become.
Source: Memphis Commercial-Appeal