YES! That was my reaction upon seeing this tweet from The Commercial Appeal in Memphis: Proposed Mayo-McRoberts deal is officially dead, source tells the CA. Mayo told this morning that he won’t be traded anywhere. In what seemed like deja vu, yesterday it was reported the Grizzlies and Pacers had agreed on basically the same deal that was on the plate at last season’s trade deadline: O.J. Mayo to Indiana for Josh McRoberts. But now, the Grizzlies have turned around and told Mayo not to worry about the rumors. He’s staying in Memphis.
It’s still not clear exactly what happened, but some are speculating perhaps Larry Bird found another deal he likes better. There are also several Grizz wings out with injuries (Sam Young is hurt, and Xavier Henry is out for a month with torn ligaments in his ankle).
When he first came out of USC and even during his initial go-round in the NBA, I always looked at Mayo as having healthy Brandon Roy potential. As a playmaker, he perhaps wasn’t on that level. But he was a monster scorer, and throughout most of his rookie year, he was being compared to first-year scoring stars like Allen Iverson. Just weeks into his rookie year, he had back-to-back nights against Denver and Phoenix – scoring 31 and 33 – where it looked like he was supplanting Rudy Gay as the team’s go-to leader. While my expectations have dragged a little after last year’s disaster of a season (Tony Allen fight, suspension, awful shooting percentages, banished to the bench), Mayo should be much better than what he is and it’s starting to piss me off a little bit.
I hardly hear anyone talk about him anymore, and yet listen to fans, critics and writers constantly throw praise on his contemporaries like DeMar DeRozan and James Harden. Against Oklahoma City in the playoffs last year, Mayo averaged just below 14 points a night, over four rebounds and three dimes, and played his best when Memphis needed it. Perhaps it was the presence of Russell Westbrook, who’s had a competitive personal rivalry going on with Mayo ever since their college matchups at USC and UCLA. Whatever it was, Mayo checked Westbrook as tight as you possibly could for much of the seven-game series. O.J. and Harden played to a virtual standstill as well, and yet Harden gets all the love as a potential All-Star. Meanwhile, Mayo is nearly being traded for bummy power forwards.
I wrote yesterday that Memphis is my No. 1 League Pass Team, and the return of Mayo and his shooting (a legitimate weakness for this squad much more than a fourth big man) is a welcome plus. I have no idea what to expect out of him this year – especially since he can kiss a shot at regaining his starting spot goodbye – but I know if Memphis plans to get beyond the Western Conference semis, they needed their best shooter to ball out like we’re in Huntington, West Virginia.
If Mayo had gone to Indiana, he would’ve had to fight just as hard for minutes given how deep that Pacer team suddenly is. Eventually, with their uptempo system and thirst for a shooter on the wings, I think he would’ve regained his old touch. But now he’s back to playing with a team that has a legit contender label. Another deep run in the playoffs would hopefully get people to show him some love.
Is this a good move for Memphis by keeping him or should they have made the deal?
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