By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com
DALLAS -- Rick Carlisle bolted a couple of steps onto the court, right in the path of O.J. Mayo dribbling up the sideline, to frantically call a timeout midway through the fourth quarter.
After the referee blew the whistle, Carlisle shot a disgusted stare toward Mayo. The Dallas Mavericks coach appeared to resist the urge to rip the ball away from his 25-year-old shooting guard, who had two sloppy turnovers and a weak foul on a made layup in the minute and a half before that uncomfortable moment.
“I called that timeout just to get you out of the game!” Carlisle screamed at Mayo in the huddle, according to one player.
Just in case Mayo didn’t get the message, Carlisle made his criticism loud and clear during his postgame news conference after the Mavs’ 103-97 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Mayo had a miserable performance against his former team, scoring only two points on 1-of-6 shooting and committing four turnovers before watching crunch time from the pine.
“I just want to see him show up,” said Carlisle, who was as harsh publicly with a player as he’s been since calling out Lamar Odom at the end of Mavs short-timer's strange midseason sabbatical. “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.”
The trouble is that Mayo tends to have bad nights against the West’s best teams. He has averaged only 10.6 points while shooting 38.2 percent from the floor and 19.0 percent from 3-point range against the conference’s top five seeds. Not coincidentally, the Mavs were 3-15 in those games.
Mayo was especially poor all season against the Grizzlies, a team that tried to trade the former No. 3 overall pick repeatedly and showed no interest in re-signing him last summer. He averaged only 8.5 points and had more turnovers (15) than assists (11) against Memphis this season.
“He just had a bad night,” Carlisle said after making a point to mention that the coaches showed Mayo film at halftime “where he was virtually just standing around defensively” and essentially implored him to mentally check into the game. “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.”
The bad nights have come in bunches for Mayo lately. His production has plummeted since the All-Star break, when he was averaging a team-high 17.9 points per game with the best shooting percentages of his career. His numbers have tailed off drastically in the last month and a half, averaging 11.8 points in March and only 9.0 in April.
Mayo’s good games, such as his 20-point, six-assist outing in last week’s upset of the Denver Nuggets, have been the exception recently. The poor performances are increasingly becoming the norm.
“Well,” Carlisle said, “the good news is there’s only an opportunity for one more.”
Just one more game before the Mavs begin the franchise’s longest offseason in a dozen years. And that wasn’t exactly a case of Carlisle, who had previously stated that he thought Mayo could be a starter on a contending team, welcoming Mayo back next season.
It’s been widely expected that Mayo, who has a player option in his contract for a $4.2 million salary next season, would decide to test the free agency market again this summer. However, Mayo recently told ESPNDallas.com that he hasn’t made a decision on whether to exercise his option to return to Dallas next season instead of looking for a long-term deal.
How many millions has Mayo lost in the last month and a half? At this point, it might make sense for him to try to put together a consistently solid season before testing the market again.
Mayo apparently didn’t have anything to say after Monday night’s loss. He dressed and left the locker room by the time the media was allowed to enter.
“I don’t know. You’ve got to ask O.J,” Dirk Nowitzki when asked about Mayo’s performance, considering Carlisle’s comments. “There are some nights where your jumper’s not going. We all go through it. You have to compete and play hard on both ends of the floor and impact obviously the game on other levels. That’s really all I can say about it.”
Carlisle can live with off-shooting nights. In fact, he made a point to heap praise on Mayo after his worst shooting game of the season, raving about the shooting guard’s hustle, toughness and all-around performance after Mayo was 1-of-13 from the floor while playing with an injured left shoulder in the March 30 comeback win over the Chicago Bulls.
But Carlisle can’t stand a lack of effort and lackluster focus. He’s given Mayo a lot of tough love in practices and film sessions this season. Carlisle let the world hear that criticism Monday night.
Carlisle didn’t single out Mayo when he talked about the daunting experience of young Mavs who have had the “opportunity to sit at the grown-ups’ table this year and see what it’s like to have more responsibility.” It was clear, though, that Mayo was the prime example.
“Look, he’s not the only guy that stunk tonight,” Carlisle said. “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.”
At the moment, that makes it hard to envision Mayo continuing his career in Dallas.