Mavericks' O.J. being squeezed by film critic Carlisle

Posted Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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DALLAS -- For O.J. Mayo, picking out the least enjoyable part of being the starting shooting guard for the Dallas Mavericks is easy, it's the film sessions.

That's because the film doesn't lie.

In Mayo's case, film sessions with coach Rick Carlisle seem to turn into a regimen of daily sessions in which the coach says something that might be a tad bit uncomfortable. The message from Carlisle to Mayo during film sessions isn't must-see TV.

"At the time when it's just you and him and sometimes in front of the team it feels like a nitpick session, because it's like everything I do is not good," Mayo said. "But when I look at the bright side he is trying to help me become a better all-around player.

"Sometimes it feels like he is picking on me today, but a lot of times it's like, 'You can do better, I know you can do better, I have seen it.' I definitely feel like he believes in me that I can do a lot more, and as a player and competitor you appreciate that, you enjoy the drive."

A no-holds-barred type of coach, Carlisle acknowledged that he absolutely, positively has been trying to squeeze more juice out of the player known as Juice.

"I'm absolutely nit-picking on him, because of my belief in his ability to become a real big-time player in this league," Carlisle said. "I'm not going to approach this in any kind of a halfway manner.

"We've got to focus our attention on getting our better young players better. Those guys are the future of this franchise and those guys are the guys that can bring us the greatest upside this year."

Mayo, who averages a team-high 18.2 points a game, doesn't take Carlisle's tough approach personal, because he asked for the individual film sessions.

"Obviously in coming here I asked coach Carlisle just to make sure I get better," Mayo said. "Every game I told him whether it was good or bad, let's come in and look at the game and see where we can get better.

"I wanted to give him my game, have him critique it and get me where I wanted to be. It's been good for me obviously, just dissecting the game offensively and defensively and just seeing the areas that I can improve on and just continuing to get better."

Mayo's poor turnover numbers had become a sore spot with the Mavericks, one of the reasons individual film sessions became part of his practice routine. Mayo went through a four-game stretch from Dec. 21-28 against Memphis, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Denver in which he turned the ball over a whopping 23 times.

For the season, Mayo has turned the ball over four or more times in 11 games, including a career-high nine turnovers during the Mavericks' 117-115 double overtime loss to the Boston Celtics on Dec. 12.

Since Mayo has the ball in his hands more than anyone except the point guards, it's in the team's best interest to make sure he knows what to do with it.

"I really feel like he's one of the guys on our team as a younger guy that has the greatest potential for improvement," Carlisle said. "We've got to make the investment in the time and the teaching, and he's got to meet us halfway with paying attention and giving us the effort, and he's done it.

"I'm a big believer in the power of the truth. You can't hold back and tap-dance around things. It's about being direct and truthful and addressing things as they need to be addressed."

Owner Mark Cuban has noticed the change in Mayo's decision-making, especially since Dirk Nowitzki returned.

"He went from hot, to a little bit confused, to working his [butt] off, to get better, to having to mesh with Dirk, to doing a really good job meshing with Dirk," Cuban said. "Rick spends a lot of time with him about basketball IQ.

"So he's got a good base, and Rick just makes him smarter. And so the more time they spend together the smarter he'll get and the better he'll get."

Mayo's teammates also have commented on the recent improvement in his ball-handling skills and decision-making. Over the past nine games, the fifth-year veteran has turned the ball over only 13 times, including a six-game stretch in which he had only one turnover in each of those games.

"He's been more patient and he's been taking care of the ball better," guard Dahntay Jones said. "He's trying to be more selective with his shots and making sure he's efficient rather than just taking a bunch of shots. He's doing a good job of watching the film and learning where he has to make the right pass, and how to make the correct pass and when he's taken the wrong shots at times. So he's been doing a good job of studying his game."

Center Elton Brand concurs with Jones, adding that the return of Nowitzki has also taken some pressure off Mayo.

"What O.J. has been doing in recent games is he's making a more concentrated effort to play the entire game, so he's been a much better defender," Brand said. "His passing has been simpler and on-point, and he's getting the ball and moving it quicker, and then moving himself has a positive influence on the game, because people guard him in many cases just as closely as they guard Dirk, because they know he can go for 40 points.

"I think his nature as a player is to always be attacking and always be aggressive. But he's also now developing a feel for our entire team and his importance to the other guys playing with him."

Asked if Carlisle can be brutally honest at times in his assessment of his game, with a smile, Mayo said: "Not sometimes. All the time.

"I just want to get better. It's a business, we understand that. It's all about winning games, and I want to win as bad as he wants to."

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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