O.J. Mayo: A New Attitude


Billed as one of the youngest teams in league, the Bucks have had to rely on veterans to lead them down the stretch and in the playoffs.  Sure, injuries have played a part in developing the situation with rookies Jabari Parker and Damien Inglis lost for the season, but the narrative of these up and coming young Bucks possibly making history is a little exaggerated.

Not that isn’t to say that’s a bad thing.  At a combined roster age of 24.2 years old, third youngest in the league, with various factors like players entering the NBA at an early age with little and in some cases, no experience playing at the college level, age is becoming less associated with a term like ‘veteran.’

There’s no better example of this than reading Jerryd Bayless’ quotes post Game 4, after winning and saving the series with his buzzer beater lay up:

"“A lot of us have been in, I’m not going to say ‘unfavorable’ but we’ve been around,” Bayless said. “We’ve been around the league. O.J. has been on teams, I’ve been on teams, ‘Duds’ has been on teams and John … he’s had ups and downs. These guys and their will to keep fighting every night throughout the 82-game season and now in the playoffs — and try to win — it’s something I’m really happy to be a part of.”"

Besides John Henson and Khris Middleton, the other three players that helped take Game 4 away from the Bulls have certainly been around the block like Bayless referenced, but for the most part, they’re hitting or are already around their ‘prime.’

Yes, they may be role players, but with the experience and confidence they have collected over the years, it’s starting to shine and there’s no better example of that than O.J. Mayo.

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Leading up to this season, a lot was made about Mayo’s first season in Milwaukee, where he underperformed and his conditioning issues/disinterest dominated the conversation whenever Mayo was brought up.

Mayo, 27, certainly has bounced back from his lost season last year and after being experimented with in the starting lineup, Mayo went back to his familiar role as sixth man/heat check and was integral in establishing the bench that was dominant throughout the first half of the season.

However, leading up to the playoffs, one of the questions fans were asking was how would the bench keep up momentum/production against a deep Chicago Bulls team.

Post All-Star break, what was once the backbone of the team quickly turned into a liability as injuries to key contributors like Mayo and Dudley derailed the production.  Kidd went as far as adjusting minutes for key players like Middleton (27.1 minutes per game pre-ASB to 35.4 post-ASB, per Basketball-Reference.com) so the team could stay in games.

The bench was slowly starting to come together once Mayo came back into the picture and he shined in April, with his best shooting numbers (52 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3’s) by far than any other month, though in a limited number of games (8).

Now, with the season on the line, Kidd has gone back to the guys that had helped them get there in the first place.  Though his shooting numbers are down (37 percent from the field, 33 percent from beyond the arc, via Basketball-Reference.com), Mayo has transformed into a straight up pest throughout the series.

He’s gone toe to toe with opposing players like Jimmy Butler, been in the middle of almost every scrum between the two teams (that warranted an “O.J. SUCKS” chant from the crowd in Game 5) and stepped up when the Bucks needed him most in Game 4, shooting 18 points and going 4 for 6 from downtown.

The turnaround under Jason Kidd has turned the Bucks into a Cinderella story and Mayo’s a shining example of Kidd’s impact.

Kidd has emphasized team basketball and a defense first philosophy.  Mayo’s bad habits like shooting early in the shot clock are still there, but he’s slowly turned into a willing passer, passing out of open looks repeatedly for better shots and we’ve seen Mayo become a defensive stopper at times throughout the series.

Down 3-2, the Bucks will be looking to even the series on Thursday night.  This Bucks squad may be young, but with their back up against the wall again, they know they have guys who they can depend on.

Next: Bucks Grow Strong As Bulls Series Gets Edgy

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