O.J. Mayo had some options this summer, none of the long-term deals he was hoping for but there were a few teams calling his agent. One of them was the Dallas Mavericks, where he eventually signed.
But one of the key reasons was that Chauncey Billups is a fan of Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. A huge fan. Billups credits Carlisle for jumpstarting his career.
Mayo said he spoke to Billups as he was trying to decide where to sign and it was Billups that directed him to Big D, Mayo said at a recent Mavericks press conference, as relayed by ESPNDallas.com (hat tip to the Hang Time Blog at NBA.com).
“He said (Carlisle) is a great coach for me to help expand my game,” Mayo said.
Billups, like Mayo now, was a No. 3 overall pick in his mid-20s who hadn’t lived up high-lottery expectations when he signed with the Carlisle-coached Pistons in the summer of 2002. Detroit was Billups’ fifth NBA team, and while he showed promise as a part-time starter the previous season in Minnesota, he had yet to prove he could be a premier point guard.
Carlisle gave Billups that opportunity in 2002-03, when he started for a 50-win team that advanced to the conference finals. That was the only seasons Carlisle coached Billups, but Billups gives Carlisle credit for helping him become a five-time All-Star and NBA champion who is now known as Mr. Big Shot.
In Dallas Dirk Nowitzki is still going to be the man who gets the shots. As it should be, he’s a proven commodity and probably the best pure shooting big man the game has ever seen.
But with eight new players on the Dallas roster there is going to be room for someone to step up and be a leader, to get points — and that’s what Carlisle had Mayo working on. Mayo was never a bad NBA shooter (for example, he hit 36 percent from three last year) but Carlisle noticed his form deteriorated as he got more fatigued. They worked on that consistency.
Mayo likely will not make the kind of leap Billups did with his career, but if he can make any leap in his fifth NBA season next summer he’s going to find those contract offers he wanted to see this summer.