Will The Grizzlies Miss O.J. Mayo?


Oct 1, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless during media day at FedEx Forum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

You know how you dread a certain moment for an extended period of time before something bad ever happens? It can be money, family, social, maybe all three at the same time. You never want to see the situation come to a head and when it does, it’s almost worse than you had imagined it would be, even as you spent days, weeks and months dreading it.

Then when it was over and the problem was resolved, you wondered why you were even concerned in the first place.

For the Memphis Grizzlies, it seems like O.J. Mayo’s impending free agency would be that way. He was a great player to be sure, but it never seemed like he was going to be in Memphis for any extended period of time.

When he first arrived, there were whispers that he would leave Memphis for a bigger market the second he got another opportunity. As time went on and he carved out his niche as a scorer off the bench, it appeared that the Grizzlies wouldn’t be able to afford to keep him, especially with four other guys tied into lucrative, long-term extensions.

Making matters worse, Mayo never seemed to gell with Coach Lionel Hollins. Hollins appreciated Mayo’s game to an extent, but always seemed to undermine him in practice, games and to the media.

So when the Grizzlies were eliminated from the 2012 NBA Playoffs in seven games by the Los Angeles Clippers and Mayo failed to have even one efficient game scoring the basketball, the writing seemed to be on the wall. Mayo would switch teams and the Grizzlies would begin life after the guy they once traded Kevin Love for.

When Mayo signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks, it was the end of an era, but a new era began as Memphis moved quickly to sign combo guard Jerryd Bayless from the Toronto Raptors.

Bayless doesn’t have anywhere near the name appeal that Mayo does, but a quick glance at his numbers suggest that he may be just as effective as Mayo as the Grizzlies’ Sixth Man.

Adding to Bayless’ resume is his ability to dribble the basketball. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but most Grizzlies fans had grown frustrating with Mayo’s assessment that he could be a more than passable point guard but would dribble the ball off of his foot every four possessions.

Bayless’ handles will be crucial as he can now log major minutes as the Grizzlies’ back-up point guard and shooting guard. If Mike Conley needs a breather, Bayless can take over with Tony Allen, Josh Selby or Wayne Ellington at the 2, or play with Conley and look for his own shot. In fact, if I had to bet money, that will likely be the Grizzlies’ crunch time back court if Bayless is as good as advertised.

In another way that can’t really be quantified by stats, Bayless may be better for team chemistry than Mayo was. Don’t get me wrong, Mayo made a lot of sacrifices for the team and made the best of whatever bizarre relationship he had with Hollins, but I always got the impression that he felt like he could have a bigger role elsewhere and never felt like he got his due for doing some of the things he did in Memphis.

Harry Truman once observed, “it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit,” and whether Mayo was the ringleader of these past two seasons of Memphis Grizzlies basketball or an accessory, he was most definitely a part of it and that’s the important part. It just seemed like he wanted to do more  and felt he deserved to have more asked of him on a night-to-night basis. The Grizzlies probably felt like they needed to move on simply because having all of those questions about his impending free agency had to be a distraction to some extent, right? It wasn’t LeBron leaving Cleveland, but nobody wants to lose a talented player.

The Grizzlies and O.J. Mayo parted ways during free agency. It was sad for a lot of Memphis fans because he had become part of our lives over his first four years in Memphis. He helped write some history but is now gone.  It’s part of the business. The task for Memphis and their fans is now appreciating Jerryd Bayless and his skill set.