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O.J. Mayo To Come Off The Bench

November 26, 2010

I like this move. I like this move, a lot actually. Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are two scorers and sometimes, when one is heating up, the other can’t get into a rhythm. Now you separate and the team scores in bunches. Grizzlies have a chance to be this year’s Thunder.

From Go Grizzlies:

The concept had been tossed around long before the Grizzlies played their 14th game of this regular season.

Coach Lionel Hollins acknowledged that moving O.J. Mayo to the bench was something his staff discussed in September. The Griz coaches met in Tunica before training camp began for a retreat to discuss how to make the team better.

“I’ve been thinking about how we can balance our lineup,” Hollins said. “Everybody talks about how bad the bench is. We weren’t getting anybody on the bench that was a true, pure scorer so I’ve always been trying to figure out what’s best to do.

“O.J. is a good shooter and he does have a scoring mentality. When you put him with the (second) unit maybe they’ll develop an identity.”

So the Griz now have a new Sixth Man. Mayo came off the bench Wednesday in the Grizzlies’ 105-84 victory over the Detroit Pistons. He’ll be a reserve tonight when the Griz host the Golden State Warriors and until an unforeseen circumstance dictates a change.

Rookie guard Xavier Henry is the new starter at shooting guard; however, Hollins couldn’t have been more clear about his rationale — Henry didn’t beat out Mayo for the job.

Both players are shooting less than 40 percent. Mayo remains a more established NBA scorer despite struggling through career lows in scoring average (13.6 ppg) and shooting percentage (.387).

“We’ll play it out and see how it goes,” Hollins said. “Hopefully, this is something that will twist us a little more.”

By twist, Hollins likely means spinning in a direction that gets the Griz into the playoff hunt quickly and keeps them there. Hanging over the Griz this season is owner Michael Heisley’s guarantee that Memphis would return to the postseason.

The Griz, off to a similar start as last season, are attempting to improve their bench scoring in a way like they tried with Allen Iverson a year ago. Mayo admittedly was taken aback when Hollins approached him about the idea. The pair sat down for a long discussion before Hollins informed the rest of the team.

Hollins challenged Mayo to take over games as a scorer and playmaker in the reserve role. Mayo, an 18-point-a-game scorer as a starter in his first two NBA seasons, called the perceived demotion “uncomfortable.”

Mayo, though, promised he’ll adjust.

“You just have to be patient and stay enthused,” Mayo said. “I just want to help my team in any way possible.”

Asked why Henry received the nod over Sam Young and Tony Allen, Hollins said he could overlook Henry’s youth because of his overall ability. Hollins looks at Young (offense) and Allen (defense) as specialists.

“Xavier’s played well enough that I’m comfortable having him out there,” Hollins said. “I trust he can play in the minutes he’s out there.”

What Hollins is mostly counting on is Mayo making the most of the job he’s being asked to do. The Griz can run more plays for Mayo with the second unit, making it so that he doesn’t have to defer any longer. Mayo arguably has willingly made the most sacrifice of any player since Hollins arrived.

He has been afforded fewer shot opportunities with the arrival of Zach Randolph and the emergence of Rudy Gay as the team’s dominant scorers. With point guard Mike Conley being asked to be more assertive on offense, Mayo often floated with the first team.

He stood along the perimeter not knowing where his shots would come and was relegated to being a spot-up shooter.

Mayo never complained through it all.

The hope is that he won’t start and will accept being a backup that more than likely finishes games in the mold of other great players who dominate as reserves. Prime examples are San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, Detroit’s Ben Gordon, Dallas’ Jason Terry and Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford — reserves who could start for any team in the league.

Mayo appeared cooperative, judging by his body language Wednesday night. His jump shot was still a bit off the mark, but he found driving lanes to score and he generally looked aggressive.

“I just want it to be a winning decision,” Mayo said.

The Griz are 2-0 with Mayo coming off the bench, including his stint as a reserve last Saturday for discipline because of tardiness.

After scoring nine points in 23 minutes during the Grizzlies’ win Wednesday, Mayo guaranteed this: If he’s disruptive moving forward, it’ll only be to the opposing team.

“I won’t do anything to bother this team,” Mayo said, “because I’m definitely a team player.”

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