DALLAS -- It didn’t take O.J. Mayo long to feel at home in Dallas.
All he’s done in his first two games wearing Mavericks white at the American Airlines Center is put up 62 points on 22-of-35 shooting, including 13-of-18 from 3-point range. Not coincidentally, the fresh, fun Mavs won both of those games and have a 3-1 record despite the absence of their only All-Star, Dirk Nowitzki.
Hey, Mayo might make a pretty strong All-Star case for himself if he can keep anything close to this kind of groove going.
We’re seeing why Mayo was the third overall pick in 2008. We’re getting a glimpse of the talent that made Mayo one of the most explosive young scorers in the league as a rookie, when he had three sets of back-to-back 30-point games.
Who cares why Mayo hadn’t put up 30 points in consecutive games since then until his first two home games in Dallas, when he dropped 30 on the Bobcats and followed that up by celebrating his 25th birthday with 32?
Yeah, Mayo’s career fizzled in Memphis. He won’t forget that. That’s why he showed up in Dallas soon after signing with the Mavs, eager to learn from coach Rick Carlisle and earn back respect around the league.
“I worked this summer,” Mayo said. “Things didn’t go my favor (in Memphis), so it just put me back into a just-try-to-get-back-in-the-NBA type deal. I was working every day, just grinding nonstop, two or three times a day. I just wanted to be really prepared to come into this season and just provide for the city of Dallas, for the organization, for the Mavericks.
“I just wanted to provide and show that I can play.”
Mayo’s hot streak didn’t just happen. This is hard work paying off.
You can count on Mayo being one of the last men off the practice floor, launching dozens of extra shots each day. He’ll usually come back to get up more shots at night, displaying a Dirk-like devotion to his craft.
Mayo didn’t shoot the ball well on the Mavs’ first two games, going 7-of-22 from the floor and pressing when his early shots didn’t go down. He’s relaxed since the Mavs returned from the road. As point guad Darren Collison said after recording his second straight double-double, 3-pointers suddenly look like midrange shots to Mayo.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” vet swingman Vince Carter said. “He puts his work in. It’s his confidence. He’s in a great rhythm. He’s shooting the ball with ease. He beats himself up when he’s not making shots. Sometimes he overthinks it. When he’s flowing, when he’s rolling, he’s rolling.”
With his mind right, Mayo’s rolling now.
Mayo is also committed to making major mental strides. He spends hours in one-on-one video sessions with Carlisle, a teacher strongly recommended to Mayo by Chauncey Billups, another former No. 3 overall pick whose career took off after Carlisle coached him for a season in Detroit. Carlisle and Mayo break down all of his touches and all of his defensive possessions.
“He’s a sponge,” said Carlisle, who praises Mayo for playing with controlled aggression. “He wants to be as good as he can possibly be, and he’s showing it.”
The flashes of brilliance from Mayo, as well as his young backcourt partner Collison, help breathe hope back into a Mavs franchise that missed on its chance to sign a ready-made superstar this summer.
There wasn’t much of a market in free agency for Mayo, who struggled the last two seasons after being demoted to the Grizzlies’ sixth man, so the Mavs were able to sign him to a one-year, $4 million contract. There’s a player option for $4.2 million next season, but that’s just an insurance policy for Mayo.
The Mavs’ preference with their one-year players is for those guys to prove themselves worthy of a long-term commitment. So far, Mayo is doing that with his performance and his attitude.
“I kind of just trust what I do and do what I trust,” Mayo said. “If you work hard, it’ll pay off sometimes.”
If Mayo keeps putting in this kind of work, it’ll pay off big for himself and the Mavs.