Eric Maynor may have signed with the Washington Wizards in July, but he’s hardly a newcomer. His familiarity with the organization goes back to when he starred at Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond, where the Wizards held training camp before moving the sessions to George Mason University three years ago.
When the team practiced at his gym, Maynor would sneak over to watch all-stars such as Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, take note of how they prepared, observe what made them successful and then store it in his memory bank.
“That wasn’t my team, but that’s where I was trying to go. I was trying to be in the NBA,” Maynor said. “That was my main goal, so I was trying to learn.”
Maynor left VCU as the program’s all-time leading scorer, and the Utah Jazz made him the first Rams player to ever be selected in the first round in 2009. Over the past four years, Maynor has also spent time in Oklahoma City and Portland before becoming a member of the team that now will be looking to him to pass along some knowledge.
After a season in which they were a woeful 5-28 without John Wall, the Wizards made finding an experienced backup an offseason priority and locked up Maynor to a two-year deal worth roughly $4 million on the first day that teams could negotiate with players.
“Felt like this was a great situation for me. A bunch of young guys, a good coaching staff, good organization on the East Coast, close to home,” said Maynor, a native of Raeford, N.C., who has averaged 4.5 points and 3.0 assists in four seasons. “I felt like it was a good choice for me.”
Last season, the Wizards were among the lowest-scoring teams in the NBA, but also among the sloppiest, tying with the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats for 23rd in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1:48-to-1. Often praised for his poise and steadiness, Maynor has a career 2.81-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Wall has a career 2.2-to-1 ratio.
“Stability [and] calmness are maybe the first words that come to my mind in terms of what I’ve seen from him,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “I think that’s going to be beneficial to our second unit, to have a calming influence on the floor with those guys. He knows what that job, responsibility means. Just his poise when he was on the floor, an ability to organize a team when he’s out on the floor. That was the thing that I thought would be important to have, when John’s not available or to back John up.”
Maynor also has the unique experience of having been a backup to some of the league’s best point guards at each stop of his career, with all-stars Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook in Utah and Oklahoma City, respectively, and rookie of the year Damian Lillard in Portland. In Washington, Maynor is eager to begin working with Wall, a former No. 1 overall pick who has yet to lead the Wizards into the postseason or make an all-star team.
With his speed and athleticism, Wall has been compared to Westbrook, and Maynor has already seen the similarities in his short time with the team. Wittman said he plans to play Maynor alongside Wall throughout the regular season, but has kept them matched up against each other through the early stages of training camp.
“I knew he was fast playing against him, but playing against him every day now, I’m just trying to feel it and see who’s really faster between him and Russell Westbrook. I don’t know yet. They both pretty fast,” Maynor said. Wall “works hard. Russell Westbrook is a guy who comes into the gym early, he works hard. And they listen. We listen to each other and that’s why I think me and John are going to be good. He can teach me some stuff just like I can teach him some stuff.”