O.J. Mayo didn't sound like a teenage prodigy who has got by on talent so far. He sounds like someone who's ready to work for it.
O.J. Mayo has a ritual whenever he visits an NBA arena. He does it everytime.
"Whenever I walk into a building before a game, I look up at the rafters," Mayo said. "I look for the banners."
Mayo sees one in Dallas. He wants to add another.
Mayo is known for many things. Not all of them are positive. He's been known has a shot-hunter, a coddled high school star who hasn't matched his immense talent with the proper work ethic.
That Mayo was nowhere to be found Tuesday night. All of his thoughts were about winning.
"I respect the work ethic, first in the front office, the coaching staff and Dirk," he said about picking Dallas this off-season. "I think its a great opportunity to come here and continue the winning."
Every answer from Mayo had to deal with winning a title. Even when asked about his individual game and comparing it to Jason Terry, he said if there's anything he wants to replicate from Terry's time in Dallas, it's winning.
It's hard not to fall in love with Mayo's words. Embattled in Memphis, going from a leading scorer to a sixth-man, from potential All-Star to not even getting an offer from the team that traded for his draft rights, Mayo clearly knows it's time for a fresh start on basketball.
It's not without warnings. Mayo's never been an efficient scorer. He hasn't been a great pick and roll player. His jumper has remained consistent from three-point range, but anywhere else, it's hardly a sure thing. He's young, he's talented. But when Memphis started winning again, it was when Mayo's numbers and minutes dropped.
That's not what Dallas needs. A team plagued with offensive woes last year, the Mavericks field goal percentage barely got above 40 to 42 percent on most nights. Dallas doesn't need a long-range chucker. It needs a player who can buy into the system and make smart decisions.
Apparently, that's what Mayo wants. On Tuesday, the only parts he discussed about his individual game during the press conference were his defense and wanting to relive the pressure put on perimeter stopper Shawn Marion.
"In order to win, defense is a key aspect of the game," Mayo said. "Shawn's been terrific guarding positions one through four. It's all about competing and guarding your position."
That's what Mayo brings that no other Maverick two-guard since Michael Finely: versatility. Terry was a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body. His role was static: bench scorer, part-time playmaker.
Often times the Mavericks had to mix and match their team-defense when Kidd and Terry were on the court. While Terry showed flashes of defensive brilliance, it was hard when the Mavericks had to match up against the likes of the Thunder, Heat or Lakers, which featured bigger and faster backcourts.
Mayo assures that the Mavericks won't be outmatched physically at the two-guard spot anymore. And while it's easy to raise an eyebrow that Mayo will improve on his defense in Dallas, it seemed to me that the man wants to work.
It even surprised Rick Carlisle at the beginning.
"O.J. we feel is a starting two-guard in this league and his best basketball is ahead of him," Carlisle said. "It was great talking to him this summer. It was clear that he wanted to be in Dallas. He had his eye on hopefully being in Dallas for a long time. I was not aware of that. That's exciting."
Cuban even gushed about Mayo's star-potential. The tools are there. Mayo possess a sweet stroke, an athletic build and enough basketball instincts to make heady plays. He isn't scared to take a big shot, he has the vision to make his teammates better. At times, he looks remarkable.
Too often in his career, however, he hasn't. Mayo's words went a long way to helping any skeptical Maverick fans come around to the idea of Mayo starting with Darren Collison in the back court at the end of October against the Lakers.
But ultimately, it falls on Mayo on the court, not in press conferences. What he said Tuesday was hopeful and inspiring to a degree. Mayo is too talented to be spit out of the NBA without much mention. Carlisle said Mayo's been working out at the team facilities almost more than any other Maverick. He said he's setting an example for the younger guards on the Dallas roster -- Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Jared Cunningham.
O.J. Mayo...role model? Hard worker? Yes, believe it. For now, there's a new O.J. Mayo in town. For the Mavericks, it can only mean bigger and better things.