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News » Top-notch trade

Top-notch trade

Top-notch trade
It was still in the first half of the Grizzlies' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week when O.J. Mayo rose to throw down an emphatic reverse dunk.

"Oh, yeah," called a fan from the stands at the Target Center in Minneapolis. "We didn't need that here, did we?"

It was the sound of pain, ladies and gentlemen. The sound of woe-is-us.

And - here's the really wonderful part - it was coming from the other guys for a change.

The other guys were fretting about the one that got away.

The other guys were wondering what could have been.

"If only O. J. Mayo had ended up in Minnesota ... "

Instead, he ended up here.

"Fortune smiled on us," said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace. "We were lucky that day."

You hear that, Memphis fans? Lucky! That's right, the Griz!

The team that fell one ping-pong ball short of LeBron James . The team that finished fourth in the Greg Oden lottery.

The Grizzlies turned Kevin Love and Mike Miller into Mayo. They turned nice players into a burgeoning star.

"I think the trade worked out for both teams," said Wallace, and how great is that?

He was being gracious! When have the Grizzlies ever had to be gracious? Gracious is what other teams do.

Now the Grizzlies get to give it a whirl. Because Love and the Timberwolves are at FedExForum tonight. Because gloating over the draft-night deal of Love and Miller for Mayo would probably be bad form.

But make no mistake, gloating is in order. The Grizzlies won this one, big.

"I don't think you can say that," said Wallace and, seriously, doesn't all this graciousness give you goose bumps?

The Grizzlies have done a lot of dumb things since they arrived in Memphis. They've succeeded in making themselves just about as irrelevant as an NBA team can be. But if they ever do recapture the imagination of this city, it will be in large part because of the deal they made on the evening of June 26.

Looking back, it's hard to believe the trade was controversial, but it absolutely was.

Head coach Marc Iavaroni has taken an unfair amount of grief for objecting to the deal, but others in the organization were skeptical, too.

"We had to really decide if we wanted to give up Mike Miller, too," Wallace said. "You could say - and critics did - that we gave up two assets for one."

Which was a ridiculous way to look at it, of course. Winning in the NBA isn't about math. It isn't about accumulating a bunch of good players, either. It's about finding legitimate, game-on-the-line stars.

"In the end, we concluded that O. J. had the best chance to be the best player of all the players involved in the deal," Wallace said. "I wouldn't change that opinion now."

Not that Love is a wasted pick or anything. He had 17 points and seven rebounds against the Grizzlies last week .

But in 33 professional games, Mayo has shown the ability to be - let's use Wallace's term here - "a major player in the league."

There aren't many players who fit that description. The Grizzlies have never had one.

Carmelo Anthony is a major player in the league. So are Dwyane Wade and Brandon Roy .

Anthony's numbers as a rookie: 21 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists.

Wade's numbers as a rookie: 16.2 points, 4 rebounds, 4.5 assists.

Roy's numbers as a rookie: 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4 assists.

Now, for purposes of comparison, Mayo's numbers as a rookie: 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3 assists.

"The really amazing thing," said Wallace, "is that he's not doing it with an abundance of shots.

Mayo shot 44.2 percent during his one year at USC; he's doing better than that (45.2 percent) in the NBA.

"He's an amazing shooter, unbelievable," said Grizzlies guard Marko Jaric . "I think everybody was surprised."

Mayo can get his shot off against anyone. He has a stunningly beautiful stroke.

And yet, that's not what his teammates say impresses them most about Mayo.

"His maturity," said Jaric.

"His maturity," said Mike Conley .

"His maturity," said Marc Gasol . "He really wants to win."

Sunday's game against Dallas was the perfect example of this last part. Mayo took just one shot in the first quarter - an emergency 3-pointer he banked in as the shot-clock was running down - and just three in the first half.

Something wrong, O. J.?

"No, I just really took it as a challenge before the game to play better defense," he said. "The two games I had played against Jason Terry, he had really put numbers up on me."

Terry wound up with 18 this time. Mayo - his defensive mission accomplished - led the Grizzlies with 21.

He was 7-of-14 from the field for the game, 5- of-8 from beyond the arc.

"In the first half, he was getting assists, doing other things to get everyone involved," said Gasol. "In the second half, he did what he can do."

Which is to say, take over. Mayo played like the star Love will never be.

"I don't think that's fair," said Wallace.

Hey, neither is life.

To reach Geoff Calkins, call him at 529-2364 or e-mail


Mayo by the numbers


Points per game - 28th in NBA and tops among rookies


Consecutive double-figure scoring games to start career


30-point games

Love by the numbers


Points per game - 13th among rookies


Longest streak of double-figure scoring games


Rebounds per game - second among NBA rookies


More Grizzlies

Miller's back: Mike Miller returns to Memphis in tonight's game, and he's not bitter about being traded to the Timberwolves.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: January 7, 2009


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