O.J. Mayo was sent to the bench in favor of rookie Xavier Henry — and that has been best for the team and him, now that Mayo has started to accept the bench scorer role and put up double digit points the last three games, including 24 against the Bobcats. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
When a guy gets benched in the NBA — particularly a guy with the skills of Mayo — other team’s GMs start to call and ask questions. This leads to trade rumors leaking out.
“I wanted O.J. to know how much we think of him,” Heisley said. “I stand behind our plan. My goal is to keep these five guys together and try to build a good team. We had a good talk. There were no problems.”
“It was very positive,” Mayo said of his meeting with Heisley. “He said he had no interest in trading me and he thought moving me to the bench was best for the team, which I agreed with. I have a great relationship with (Heisley) and Mr. Gene Bartow (president of Hoops LP, the Grizzlies’ business arm). It’s always cool when you have important and well-respected guys rooting for you. It’s a boost of confidence. They’re pretty much on my side even though I’ve struggled.”
We need to see more than good numbers in a blowout of the Bobcats to say for sure Mayo has turned the corner, but at least he will not be popping up in trade rumors for a while. Probably.
Kyle Lowry tried to drive through George Hill’s legs. That didn’t work. (VIDEO)
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.
1) Bulls’ Coby White is red hot — and latest Jim Boylen controversy. Will Jim Boylen be the coach of the Bulls next season? Current management — the Gar/Pax team — has his back and loves his old-school ways, but that duo has already lost some power (Gar Forman has seen his role reduced) and John Paxson is about to. A new GM (or whatever title) is coming in this summer — talks have started, and there was a lot of buzz about that around All-Star weekend — and you can bet that person will want a say in who coaches his team.
White, the rookie backup point guard for the Bulls, is on fire. He had consecutive 33-point games coming into Tuesday night, but White’s mentor and former AAU coach, Chris Paul, promised an end to this trend.
That’s not what happened. White dropped 35 on the Thunder, shooting 13-of-21 overall and 6-of-9 from three (in another Chicago loss).
The last Bulls rookie with three 30+ point games in a row? Some guy named Michael Jordan.
As noted by K.C. Johnson at NBC Sports Chicago, White and Zach LaVine have each scored 30-plus points in consecutive games, and the last Bulls’ teammates to do that were Bob Love and Chet Walker in 1969. Beyond the stats, White brings a level of dynamic play and energy to the Bulls nobody else on that roster seems able to.
For the last three games, White and LaVine have formed an electric offensive backcourt. Starting point guard Kris Dunnis out for the season. A lot of people are calling for White to get the call and start games.
So coach Boylen, is it time to make White the starter?
No. Boylen is going to keep White coming off the bench (and play his veterans, in general), rather than move White into the starting lineup.
“I keep getting this question and I’m just going to answer it one more time,” Boylen said. “Coby’s in a good place. We’re going to keep him in a good place. Let’s let Coby keep playing and lets let him keep developing.”
Don’t change what’s working is a good philosophy.
If it’s actually working. Which, in the big picture, is the real question in Chicago.
John Paxson will remain the Bulls president and he fully buys into Boylen’s style. Normally that would mean Boylen is safe, but the ground is shifting in Chicago with front office changes coming. How much they change remains to be seen, but any GM coming needs to have new ideas and bring change — otherwise what’s the point of bringing him in — and that will include on the coaching front. The ground is shifting in Chicago, and that makes it difficult for Boylen to remain standing.
2) Zion Williamson comes to Los Angeles but LeBron James steals the show, drops season-high 40. Zion Williamson made his debut against LeBron and the Lakers — and he did some very Zion things. Like dunk.
Despite that, Tuesday night was the LeBron James show — the MVP candidate got whatever he wanted. Wherever he wanted. The results was a season-high 40 points (and a 118-109 Laker win).
Los Angeles has won six in a row and is in control atop the West.
New Orleans is now four-games behind Memphis in the loss column in the chase for the eighth seed — and the right to face the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
3) Bucks remind everyone they own the East. The Milwaukee Bucks have been the clear best team in the East — rather, the best team in all of basketball — this season. It’s not up for debate. The calendar hasn’t even flipped to March yet and the Bucks have 50 wins.
If you want more evidence, take a look at the Bucks schedule. Last Saturday, Milwaukee dismantled Philadelphia (largely without Ben Simmons, but still).
Then on Tuesday night, on the second night of a back-to-back (and the team’s third game in four days), Milwaukee went into Toronto and took care of a red-hot Raptors team. It was a balanced attack. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points and 19 rebounds (plus eight assists), Khris Middleton had 22 points, Eric Bledsoe had 17, and Brook Lopez had 15 as the NBA-leading Bucks won their fifth straight and 18th of 20.
Antetokounmpo said yes, he was motivated by the fact Toronto is where the Bucks lost in the playoffs last season — you have to love that attitude.
We keep talking ourselves into teams that will challenge the Bucks in the East — right now the Celtics are trendy on that list — but then you watch the Bucks play and realize it is them and then a big gap to everyone else.
It has always been easy to connect the dots that would bring Dion Waiters to the Lakers. Waiters’ former agent is Rob Pelinka, who is now the Lakers’ GM. Waiters’ current agent is Rich Paul, who reps both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That gets your foot in the door.
The Lakers have been active in the buyout market — they signedMarkieff Morris, who made his debut for the team Tuesday night — looking to add playmaking and shooting. Waiters can shoot — 37.7 percent from three last season and 38.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes — but is not much of a playmaker (he can put the ball on the floor but only to create for himself). The Lakers need to decide if he’s a fit, they have Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the two-guard spot already. Waiters has played a fair amount at the point in Miami, but he’s not the kind of playmaker the Lakers are seeking to go with Rajon Rondo.
Fans tune into Memphis games to watch Ja Morant, the dynamic rookie point guard who has led the Grizzlies to the playoff chase in the West (the Grizzlies currently hold down the eighth spot and final playoff slot).
Those same fans often come away saying, “who is that No. 15?”
It’s Brandon Clarke, another Memphis rookie, this one out of Gonzaga. Clarke is averaging 12 points a game shooting 62.3% from the field, and he’s been a solid part of the Memphis rotation.
Now, he’s going to be out a couple of weeks with a thigh bruise.