Eric Maynor has spent his career as the ideal backup to elite point guards — the steady, able hand assigned to guide the second unit and provide a change of pace to the frenetic speedsters who preceded him on the court.
In four seasons with three teams, Maynor has already assumed that role for all-star Deron Williams in Utah, all-star Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City and rookie of the year Damian Lillard in Portland. Last week, Maynor arrived as a free agent signee in Washington, where he has been tasked with the same assignment for John Wall, a former No. 1 pick who started to fully tap into his potential late last season.
Feeling the need to upgrade behind Wall, the Wizards targeted Maynor immediately after the free agent recruitment period began. And desiring to end the suspense about his future, Maynor reciprocated the interest and accepted a two-year deal worth about $4 million and includes a player option for the second season.
â€śI think this is the kind of team thatâ€™s going to be on the rise,â€ť Maynor said. â€śI just wanted to get it out the way. I didnâ€™t want to be waiting. I felt like this was a great situation for me. Young team. Up-and-coming. Nice deal for me. Iâ€™m excited about being here.â€ť
When the NBAâ€™s moratorium on free agent signings and trades was lifted Wednesday, Maynor didnâ€™t waste any time signing his deal and get started with his new team. Garrett Temple also signed his one-year deal worth the veteranâ€™s minimum of about $900,000.
“Eric is a solid player who has thrived playing behind some of the leagueâ€™s best point guards,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. â€śHe will bring stability and experience in that role and add leadership and character off the floor.”
Maynor already has a local following after playing four seasons at Virginia Commonwealth, where he famously led the Rams to an upset of Duke in the 2007 NCAA tournament and became the first player from the school to be drafted in the first round. Six years removed from burying that memorable foul line jumper to win the game, Maynor said he is reminded of the shot wherever he goes.
â€śSome people be mad, but people always talk about it,â€ť said Maynor, a native of Raeford, N.C., who expects a slightly different reaction from fans in the area. â€śIâ€™ll get a lot of high-fives.â€ť
Maynor already has a relationship with Wall, who is also a North Carolina native. After spending time alongside Lillard and Westbrook in the back court, Maynor expects to share the floor with Wall without complications. â€śAbsolutely. It was the same way when I was in Oklahoma with Russell,â€ť Maynor said. Wall â€śand Russell might be, like, the same player. A lot of similarities to both of them. Iâ€™m excited to play with him and Iâ€™m looking forward to being a part of the Wizards.â€ť
Maynor claims to be â€ś110 percentâ€ť after spending most of last season navigating past a torn ACL that he suffered in January 2012. After struggling early and eventually losing his spot in Oklahoma Cityâ€™s rotation, Maynor was traded to Portland, where he regained his rhythm and began to flourish alongside Lillard.
â€śItâ€™s way over a year now, so Iâ€™m good,â€ť Maynor said of his knee injury, which forced him to wear a brace until the all-star break. â€śAbout two weeks after I got out of that brace, I just started feeling back normal, feeling like myself again. More free and just playing. It was tough coming off that injury, but soon as I got out of that brace, my confidence got back high.â€ť
Maynor was confident that he would return to Portland and said he was told that the team planned to bring him back. But the Trail Blazers selected combo guard C.J. McCollum with the 10th pick in last month’s NBA draft, then declined to pick up Maynorâ€™s option, which allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.
â€śYou never know whatâ€™s going on,â€ť Maynor said. â€śThey had said they wanted to re-sign me back. This was before draft night or whatever. McCollum was there and they took, I guess, the best available player, and me and my agent, we went from there.â€ť
Since deciding to join the Wizards, Maynor has already received congratulatory remarks on Twitter from Wall and former Thunder teammate and District native Kevin Durant. Having the chance to play only 90 minutes from where he starred in college and closer to his family in North Carolina played a huge role in his decision to join the Wizards.
â€śVCU right down the road. Iâ€™ve been on the West Coast or Midwest or whatever since Iâ€™ve been in the league. Iâ€™m happy to be back on the East Coast,â€ť Maynor said. â€śIt feels like Iâ€™m back home. My family from North Carolina can come up. Itâ€™s easier without taking a flight to Portland or Oklahoma City. Fans in Richmond, Virginia can come up and watch games.â€ť
But Maynor was also encouraged by the direction of the Wizards, who experienced moderate success after Wall returned from injury and recorded wins against some of the leagueâ€™s top teams. He expects to pass along what he has already learned and experienced to what he believes is an already focused crew.
â€śIâ€™m going to come in and work hard. Itâ€™s going to show. You already got a bunch of guys over here that work hard, but we can all put it together and just go from there,â€ť Maynor said. â€śI can bring a big leadership role to this team. True point guard. Iâ€™m going to get guys involved. Plays hard and is all about winning.â€ť