DALLAS — Rick Carlisle typically falls on the sword and defends his guys, but on Monday night the Dallas Mavericks’ coach boiled over with frustration and ripped O.J. Mayo for failing to compete against his former club.
“I don’t know. You should probably ask him. I’m not sure,” Carlisle said when asked why Mayo delivered such a disappointing effort. “He wasn’t into it in the first half. We showed him some film at halftime where he was virtually just standing around defensively and said, ‘Hey, we need you'; just tried to get him going a little bit. He just had a bad night. I guess I’ll write it off to that. But I tell you what, if I was playing against my former team, I’d come out ready to go. I’d come out ready to go at them. But that’s me, you know, that’s me.”
Mayo wasn’t available to give his side. He split the Mavs’ locker room before reporters were permitted inside.
He finished the game — a 103-97 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that assured the Mavs (40-41) of finishing with a non-winning record for the first time since 1999-2000 — with two points on 1-for-6 shooting and four turnovers in more than 28 minutes. In a disastrous span of 2:54 in the fourth quarter, Mayo missed a long 3-pointer, threw the ball away and then committed a foul that led to a three-point play. Then, following a steal by Shawn Marion, Mayo was stripped from behind on the fastbreak.
Seething, Carlisle stomped on the floor and called time out. He lunged in front of Mayo and looked as if he wanted to tackle him to the floor. He never put Mayo back in the game.
Mayo’s first season in Dallas has been filled with ups and downs, with Monday’s effort scraping bottom.
“Well, the good news is there’s only an opportunity for one more [poor outing],” Carlisle said. “I just want to see him show up. I just want to see him show up and compete. He didn’t compete tonight. And I tell you, with all the time we’ve put into helping him develop and bringing him along, in the biggest game of the year – an opportunity to be a winning team – for him to show up like he did tonight, I was shocked. Look, sometimes guys have bad nights, so make sure to put that in there, too.”
Carlisle was asked if Mayo has been one of the more frustrating players he’s coached.
“I’ve avoided the use of the word ‘frustration,’” Carlisle said. “I am all about enthusiasm this year, really, and I’ve been very consistent with that. But, you know, if you’re not going to compete, don’t show up at all. Look, we’ve got one left and we’ve got a chance to avoid a losing record. I think that is significant, so we’ve got to get ready for Wednesday.”
Will Mayo be back in the starting lineup?
“We’re talking about a guy here who leads our team in minutes played,” Carlisle said. “We’re very dependent on him and have ridden through a lot of stretches where he hasn’t played his best, and then other times he’s played great. This is part of the learning experience for him. And, look, to be honest, it’s part of the learning experience for me. I guess in my 11th year of head coaching in this league – been deep in the playoffs a lot of times, had a chance to be with a championship team, coached three or four first-ballot Hall of Famers – I’ve got to understand that there’s going to be instances like this.
“Look, he’s not the only guy that stunk tonight. I stunk, too. I’ll readily admit that, and I’ve been admitting it all year. But I’m passionate about not wanting to stink. That’s where I have trouble reconciling things.”
The 6-foot-4 former No. 3 draft pick spent his first four seasons with the Grizzlies, where he started all 82 games his first two seasons. After that, though, he filled a reduced, and personally unfulfilling, role as sixth man. Memphis opted not to make a qualifying offer to him as a restricted free agent last summer and set him free.
Mayo signed what was essentially a one-year deal for $4 million with Dallas with the choice to opt out this summer or stay on for one more season also at $4 million. At the time he signed, Mayo said he chose Dallas to turn his game over to Carlisle in hopes of becoming a better all-around player.
He started the season on an impressive scoring tear with Dirk Nowitzki out until nearly Christmas following knee surgery. But his scoring average has dipped to 15.4 ppg, and since Feb. 1 he’s had just four games of at least 20 points. During that span of 35 games, he’s averaged 12.1 points.
In four games against the Grizzlies, Mayo has averaged 8.5 points on 13-for-37 shooting.
The Mavs, with potentially nine open roster spots this summer, will again be making significant changes. The belief all along has been that Mayo would opt out to seek a more lucrative deal either with Dallas or another team.
But now there must be clear doubt as to whether Mayo can command more on the open market. And whether he and/or the Mavs care to take this relationship to a second season is wide open to speculation.
Asked last week if Mayo is a player capable of being a key cog on a team with aspirations to return to a championship level, Carlisle said: “Is he capable of that? I’ll give you an evaluation on that once the season is over. I believe he is.”