Between Dec. 20th and Jan. 10th, Dallas Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo took 64 three-pointers and made 14 of them. This terrible 21.9 percent mark was spread out over 12 games, which is problematic in several areas. This means he was taking over five bombs per game despite the swoon. This means he was making these shots at a half-cut rate from the typical “you’re allowed to take over five per game”-type of shooting guard. This means he was flinging, instead of doing what he did throughout October and November: Squaring shoulders, releasing at the top of his arc, and following through. In October and November, you might recall, Mayo shot over 51 percent from behind the arc.
O.J. rebounded, though, in two games following that three-week dip – hitting five of six threes and scoring 31 points on just 18 shots. On top of that, he was in the midst of what Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle called a “radical improvement in his ball-handling and his decision-making and his passing over the last two weeks.”
He also missed six of nine shots in the first half of Wednesday’s win over Houston, though. And during the halftime break, Carlisle thought it proper to lay into the first-year Maverick about what he deemed to be poorly-conceived attempts at scoring. From the Dallas Morning News (via PBT):
“It’ll be a bigger sign when I don’t have to scream at him at halftime about it,” Carlisle said.
Call it tough love. Carlisle went on and on about how thrilled he has been with Mayo’s recent play, starting with the Jan. 1 Washington game. Carlisle saw slippage Wednesday night.
“I thought in the first half, he took some shots that were ill-advised, when he is becoming a very good play-maker and a very good all-around basketball player. I’m sorry, it’s beneath me to watch a guy continue to veer off from the path that’s best for him and our team.”
So what happened after the scream? O.J. missed all five of his shots in the second half.
What happened behind the scream, though?
Mayo scored 18 points on “just” 14 shots because he earned 13 trips to the free throw line, making 12 overall. On top of that, O.J. managed eight assists to just two turnovers. And it was after this game that Carlisle mentioned the “radical improvement” that he’s seen from his 25 year-old guard. The coach, who has been flustered all season by a frustrating Mavericks team that could be soon broken up by the trade deadline, went on to describe Mayo’s improvement with this aside:
“I can’t even tell you, it’s so good.”
Players don’t typically read the papers. It’s doubtful that Mayo read Carlisle’s warming description, but it’s certain that he remembered his halftime rant. Hopefully he reads the part about his play being “so good.” Hopefully Carlisle said as much to him following the win, away from the reporters.
And hopefully Rick Carlisle – one of the great minds in this league – continues to believe that low efficiency play is “beneath him.” That’s not a droll shot at the guy. Coaches will stomp and clap and call out plays even after an offensive rebound, but too often these guys are excusing low-rated looks at the basket. Usually it takes a Nate Robinson or Metta World Peace-styled jack from 25 feet to draw ire, but the languid crossovers or pump-fakes from the perimeter are just as damaging. More so, perhaps, because the loping bombs from Robinson, MWP, or Stephen Jackson tend to be offensively rebounded at a higher rate than, say, a dodgy in-betweener from Brandon Jennings.
The Mavericks and O.J. Mayo rented each other. The team signed the guard because they needed scoring, but wanted to retain 2013 cap space. Mayo joined the Mavs because he needed a high-end gig at something more than a minimum price. They’re using each other, and there’s no shame in that.
As a fan, knowing that this could be a passing thing, it’s a fascinating experiment to watch.