Commentary

O.J. Mayo gets schooled in success

Mavericks coach rides humbled SG hard, and he wouldn't have it any other way

Updated: November 15, 2012, 3:34 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- A humbled O.J. Mayo came to the Dallas Mavericks because he wanted to be coached hard.

Be careful what you wish for.

[+] EnlargeO.J. Mayo
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezO.J. Mayo asked for tough coaching when he arrived with the Mavs, and he got a heavy dose during a film session Tuesday.
Actually, Mayo has no regrets about turning down more lucrative offers elsewhere to sign a one-year, $4 million deal with a player option for a second season in Dallas. Not even after he endured an embarrassing Tuesday afternoon when he was the primary target of coach Rick Carlisle's wrath, of which there was plenty with the Mavs mired in a three-game losing streak.

"I was the star of a film you don't want to be the star in," Mayo told ESPNDallas.com following the Mavs' closer-than-it-shoulda-been 107-101 win Wednesday night over the winless Washington Wizards. "Man, it was terrible."

Mayo could laugh a little about the film session from hell after he scored 25 efficient points in the Mavs' streak-buster. But the 25-year-old shooting guard, whose star dimmed considerably during his four seasons in Memphis, is as serious as could be about getting better.

Mayo might have grown up hearing about how great he was as an AAU sensation who was selected with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft, but his ears have been filled the last couple of years with buzz about him having already reached his ceiling.

That makes the mild-mannered Mayo mad enough to cuss.

And that's why he welcomes Carlisle's occasionally foul-mouthed criticism, as tough as it is to stomach when he's the focus of 12 consecutive film clips in front of his teammates -- and each play features him doing something wrong.

"Man, I've got a lot to learn, a lot to get better at," said Mayo, who gives himself a large share of the blame for each loss in the Mavs' recent streak. "It's all about getting better. You don't want a coach that says, 'It's all right, it's all right,' and it's not all right."

It's not like Mayo has done all wrong during his brief time in Dallas. Far from it.

There's no way the Mavs, minus Dirk Nowitzki every night so far and Shawn Marion for the last five games, are 5-4 without Mayo.

He's mostly lit it up offensively, flashing the potential that made him such a coveted prospect at one point. He's averaged 21.8 points per game in extremely efficient fashion, shooting 48.9 percent and 58.5 percent from 3-point range, leading the league with 31 triples made.

Carlisle There's been nothing about O.J.'s approach that I haven't loved in terms of his work ethic and those kinds of things. It's just his responsibility level is higher than it's ever been.

-- Mavs coach Rick Carlisle on O.J. Mayo
In short, Mayo's scoring has carried the Mavs for stretches.

But Carlisle demands so much more than scoring. He's pushing Mayo to become an all-around player. Carlisle rides Mayo especially hard about defense, much like the coach did with Jason Terry during their four seasons together in Dallas.

"This can't be about, 'I've got to conserve energy on defense because I need to score,'" Carlisle said. "That ain't working for us. And I guarantee you it's not working for any winning teams in this league."

When Mayo left Memphis, where he was demoted to sixth man the last two seasons, he wanted a chance to prove all the old talk about his potential wasn't wrong. That didn't just mean getting more minutes. It meant getting pushed.

Mayo's decision to come to Dallas was essentially sealed during a phone call with Chauncey Billups, of all people.

You see, Billups was considered somewhat of a bust as a No. 3 overall pick who bounced around the league before he landed on Carlisle's Detroit Pistons team. Carlisle coached Billups for only one season, but the man now known as Mr. Big Shot stressed to Mayo how critical Carlisle was to his career blossoming.

So Mayo signed with the Mavs and made Dallas his home as soon as possible. He spent most the summer here, working with Carlisle and the Mavs' strength and conditioning staff on a daily basis.

Of course, it's not like Carlisle is working with Mayo purely out of the kindness of his heart. The Mavs hope Mayo can be part of the franchise's core for the foreseeable future, but that'll all play out in due time. The Mavs need Mayo to be great right now to have any reasonable chance of making a playoff run this season.

"The great thing about it is I want to be a damn good or great player," Mayo said. "It's all about work, work, work. I'm totally comfortable, totally focused here."

While Carlisle killed Mayo in the Tuesday film session, the coach appreciates his prized pupil's attitude and accountability.

"There's been nothing about O.J.'s approach that I haven't loved in terms of his work ethic and those kinds of things," Carlisle said. "It's just his responsibility level is higher than it's ever been."

Mayo owns that responsibility.

And it's not just about his role on this team. He's honored to play on a team that won a title two seasons ago, to share a locker room with champions like Nowitzki and Marion, to play for owner Mark Cuban and to be coached by Carlisle.

"You don't want to let those guys down," Mayo said. "They laid down an unbelievable foundation and finished the house. If you're going to move in, at least keep it clean and keep everything rolling."

That means living by Rick's rules. Rough as it might be, Mayo wouldn't want it any other way.

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