Wizards’ backup point guard carousel continues

In this Nov. 12, 2013, photo, Washington Wizards' Eric Maynor handles the ball during an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas. The Wizards, pushing for their first playoff berth since 2008, acquired point guard Andre Miller from the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in a three-way trade that also involves the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards gave up two seldom-used players--Maynor and forward Jan Vesely. Vesely goes to the Nuggets, while Maynor gets shipped to the 76ers. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
I didn’t get to do this too much. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Andre Miller is now the next man up in the Wizards’  pursuit of an adequate backup for John Wall, a search that has lasted the entirety of the point guard’s career.

Veteran Kirk Hinrich was in place for Wall’s rookie season in 2010 and had prior experience guiding along a former No. 1 pick after performing the same duties in Chicago with Derrick Rose. But ever since the Wizards dealt Hinrich to Atlanta after he and Wall played just four months together, Washington has tried Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Mustafa Shakur, Shelvin Mack, A.J. Price, Garrett Temple and Eric Maynor. Bibby lasted two games and surrendered his entire $6 million salary the following season just so he wouldn’t have to play in Washington. Jannero Pargo and Shaun Livingston were on the roster but never played for the team while Wall was healthy.

The Wizards hoped Maynor finally would provide some stability at the position when he agreed to a two-year deal on the first day of the free agent signing period during the offseason. Having played college basketball at Virginia Commonwealth, where he used to watch the Wizards hold training camp, Maynor appeared to be an ideal fit — until he actually hit the court.

Maynor lost his spot to Temple within a month, and his primary role became slapping hands with the starters before they hit the floor and providing encouraging words for his teammates — especially second-year guard Bradley Beal, who connected with the player he often referred to as “E-Mayn.” But Maynor’s poor play prompted the organization to part ways with him just seven months after he arrived, sending him to Philadelphia on Thursday as part of the Miller deal.

“He didn’t perform the way we expected him to, or he expected to, frankly,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said of Maynor. “He was learning our system and getting accustomed to how we were playing, but we put Garrett in there and Garrett has done a real nice job for us, as far as playing defense and getting in our sets and once he got into the rotation, he did a nice job and he stayed there.”

Considering how swiftly he was swept out of the rotation and out of town, Maynor ranks among Grunfeld’s worst signings for the Wizards. The team had to sacrifice a second-round pick just so that Philadelphia would take him.

Andray Blatche was waived in July 2012 through the amnesty provision before his three-year contract extension — which he signed two years earlier — actually kicked in, and will continue to collect checks from the organization through next season. But at least Maynor can claim that he played 23 games for Washington and never embarrassed the team with any off-court incidents. Maynor was two years removed from a devastating knee injury that certainly robbed him of some of his explosiveness but he never blamed his struggles on being hurt; he simply couldn’t give the Wizards anything that they wanted from a backup point guard.

Coach Randy Wittman benched Maynor for the first time in a loss to Cleveland on Nov. 16 and only gave him one chance to play in the past 26 games. Maynor got seven minutes against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 29 and thought he would get more opportunities.

“I have to get my legs back under me and get back into rhythm. But as I ran up and down a couple of times, I was feeling okay,” Maynor said after the game. “In this league, they say, ‘Stay ready.’ And I’ve just been working. I’m in good shape. Feel good. I’ve just been waiting for the opportunity. Hopefully they stay with me and just believe in me and I’ll be all right.”

Maynor never played again for the Wizards, failing to get a chance to play against his former teams, Oklahoma City and Portland.

His struggles became more magnified when Kendall Marshall — a former lottery pick whom the Wizards acquired in the Marcin Gortat trade and immediately waived before the start of the season — joined the Los Angeles Lakers and developed into a competent point guard, averaging 10.7 points and 9.8 assists. He has posted at least 10 assists 15 times in 26 games. Wall has 19 double-digit assist games this season.

After the Wizards traded for Miller, Marshall, a former Bishop O’Connell standout, responded on his Twitter account, “the irony.” Grunfeld was asked about Marshall on Thursday and said he was never in their plans.

“He’s played well,” Grunfeld said, but “in order to get the deal done for Gortat, we needed to put a couple of players in from a salary cap standpoint, so we never even really saw him at all. He was put in the deal just to get a deal done. But give him a lot of credit, he has played very well for the Lakers.”

Grunfeld couldn’t say the same at any point for Maynor, who averaged 2.3 points on 29.2 percent shooting and 1.7 assists.

“I’m sure it was frustrating for him and he lost a little bit of confidence as he went along,” Grunfeld said of Maynor. “Garrett stepped in and he performed real well and he took over that spot and he kept it with his good defensive player and his good hustle. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way he expected or we expected but we saw an opportunity to get somebody who’s really proven and done it year after year after year, we felt like we had to take advantage of that.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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