- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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But the Mavs did get an assist from an old point guard during the free-agency process. It just wasn’t one that’s ever worn a Mavs uniform.
O.J. Mayo reached out to Chauncey Billups, one of his favorite players in the league, while researching potential destinations this summer. Billups strongly recommended that Mayo play for Rick Carlisle, who played a significant role in Billups achieving his potential.
“He said (Carlisle) is a great coach for me to help expand my game,” Mayo said.
Billups, like Mayo now, was a No. 3 overall pick in his mid-20s who hadn’t lived up high-lottery expectations when he signed with the Carlisle-coached Pistons in the summer of 2002. Detroit was Billups’ fifth NBA team, and while he showed promise as a part-time starter the previous season in Minnesota, he had yet to prove he could be a premier point guard.
Carlisle gave Billups that opportunity in 2002-03, when he started for a 50-win team that advanced to the conference finals. That was the only seasons Carlisle coached Billups, but Billups gives Carlisle credit for helping him become a five-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion who is now known as Mr. Big Shot.
Mayo hasn’t bounced around the league, having spent his entire four-year career with the Memphis Grizzlies, but he has a lot of similarities to the 2002 version of Billups. Mayo is a No. 3 overall pick whose career hasn’t progressed as anticipated.
Billups’ advice to Mayo: Let Carlisle coach you.
That’s exactly what Mayo has done. He arrived in Dallas a month ago specifically so he could work with Carlisle.
Mayo usually works on one specific weakness each summer. He’s worked on whatever Carlisle wanted recently.
“My whole thing is to give my game to Coach and let him help me get better in ways I can help the team,” Mayo said.
That’s included refining something Mayo considered one of his biggest strengths: shooting the ball.
They’ve worked on keeping the ball high and staying ready to shoot, especially when Mayo gets fatigued. Carlisle used Reggie Miller and Rip Hamilton -- a couple of elite shooters he’s coached -- as examples and pointed out Mayo’s flaws while reviewing film of Grizzlies games.
“It was different, because I had never worked on it,” Mayo said. “It was actually a little irritating because I was comfortable with my shot, but he’s helped it a lot. Through workouts, it’s more efficient, more consistent. He’s just a great coach.”
Just like Billups told Mayo.