HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Eric Maynor was forced to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder’s run through the Western Conference and to The Finals like the rest of us, from the sidelines in street clothes. A knee injury cost the Thunder point guard his chance at making a significant on-court contribution to the cause.
But he’s back now and seemingly better than ever, working as the Thunder’s resident wild card after a summer spent growing what’s already in the fold as opposed to adding new pieces to what Thunder fans hope is a championship-ready roster.
Derek Fisher was used in this same position last season, and proved to be particularly valuable in the postseason. He was only keeping the spot warm for Maynor, who reportedly faces a serious challenge for playing time from Reggie Jackson.
If what Maynor showed last night, however, is any indication, Jackson might spend more time watching Maynor work instead of stepping into his shoes.
Barry Tramel of the Oklahoman was there and loved what he saw from Maynor in the Thunder’s win over the Bobcats :
A cool hand. A settling force. A silky facilitator in a land of Olympians and all-stars.
Maynor had seven assists and just one turnover in 19 minutes against the Bobcats. Ten points on 3-of-5 shooting. Even had five rebounds.
“Really good to see him out there,” Scotty Brooks said. “He’s solid, as we all know. He makes good decisions. He facilitates the offense. He gets everyone involved.
“I thought we passed the ball as well as we have all training camp. The passing was contagious.”
Maynor says his knee is healed, and against the Bobcats it appeared to be.
“He’s a big part of this team,” said teammate Daequan Cook. “Always has been. He’s starting to get into his rhythm. We know what he’s capable of. And he can do more.”
Maynor also said he’s trying to wipe out the rust of not playing for nine months, though nothing about his game seemed rusty, unless it was defense.
“Weird, sometimes,” Maynor said of being back on the court. “Mainly, just getting out there, playing a real game. It’s starting to pick up, become normal.”
If the Thunder learned anything during The Finals, it’s that a championship team needs each and every one of its role players to do their part. They got burned by Heat role players Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and James Jones at one time or another.
They had their hands full with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as well. But it was those role players who swung the momentum in the Heat’s favor time and again.
Maynor will need to help lead that cause in Oklahoma City this time around, because the Lakers (Dwight Howard and Steve Nash) and Heat (Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis) did most of the heavy lifting, among true contenders, during the free agent/trade season. The Thunder chose to tend to the home garden and go with the ingredients already in hand.