With Eric Maynor at the controls, the Wizards’ offense has consistently gone off the tracks like a wayward train. His shot selection and decision-making have been questionable, to be kind, and that was never more apparent than his five-minute stint on Monday against the Denver Nuggets.
That’s when Maynor ran an offense that produced just three points and had a turnover, two 24-second violations and a rushed shot by Maynor to avoid another 24-second violation. His last possession before getting benched for the rest of the night was an eyesore. Maynor dribbled for 20 of the 24 seconds on the clock and it ended with him firing a one-handed shot from the “W” on the “Wizards” near center court that went about five feet to the left of the basket and was batted down by referee Eddie Rush to protect the cameraman seated along the baseline.
The sequence was by far the worst of the season for Maynor but the problem is that he has had few, if any, good ones. Off to the worst start of his career, Maynor is averaging just 2.7 points on 30.9 percent field goal shooting and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of just 2.18-to-1.
“It’s been tough,” Maynor said. “It’s been real tough for me, trying to figure out everything. Trying to figure out how I can really, really fit in. I’m a professional, though. I’m a professional and the thing I tell everybody: ‘It might not be right now, but you’re going to get the best out of me, come here soon.’ I’m going to keep putting the work in. Right now, I’m not playing at a high level. No doubt in my mind that come here soon, I’ll be playing at a high level. Just got to continue to put the work in and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Maynor arrived in Washington with a reputation for being a reliable backup point guard and the Wizards made acquiring him such a priority that they signed him on the first day of free agency – before bringing back Martell Webster or Garrett Temple, before signing Al Harrington and before giving John Wall an $80-million extension.
The Wizards’ struggles without Wall last season made finding a backup imperative but the former VCU standout has played so poorly that he has left many wondering why President Ernie Grunfeld was in such a rush to give him a two-year, $4.1 million contract, with the second year a player option – especially when alternatives such as Mo Williams, C.J. Watson, Nate Robinson and Darren Collison were available at a similar price tag. Players who filled in for Wall last season – Shelvin Mack and Shaun Livingston – are both having more productive seasons at more than half the cost.
Maynor’s lack of productivity has placed a heavy burden on Wall and the rest of the starters to dig out the holes that occur under his watch. The Wizards (9-11) have been outscored by 113 points in Maynor’s 196 minutes on the floor this season. Wall has the best plus-minus at positive-93 in his team-leading 755 minutes played, but Washington has a negative differential this season of negative-0.8. Maynor’s plus-minus per 48 minutes is negative-27.7.
“Not being aggressive,” Coach Randy Wittman said, when asked what he felt was the root of Maynor’s problems. “It’s a lot of our guys that way. And I told him today, I would rather have to pull you aside and say, ‘Slow down a little bit. You’re trying to do too much.’ Than to have to try to get you to getty-up and go.
“It’s not just Eric,” he continued. “That’s what I want out of all of them. To say, ‘Take a step back here, big fella.’ Than to say, ‘Come on!’ ”
Wittman also acknowledged that Maynor has had to adjust to a new system and an ever changing bench. The Wizards have had seven different starting lineups in the first 20 games, so Maynor has often had to work with a different group with Wittman’s unsteady rotation.
“It’s always hard adjusting to a new system,” Maynor said. “New teammates. New schemes. But that’s the nature of the business. We all got to get used to each other. Far as having good practices and we’ve got to turn them into good games. Our white team be playing good in practice, but we got to turn it into games.
“We just need to go out there and just play,” he said. “Play freely. Play more aggressive. I don’t think we’re doing that right now. none of us that’s coming off the bench. I think we’re too passive, just back, back. I think our starters need us to pick it up a lot. I really feel like we need to go out and play aggressive.”
Wittman benched Maynor for a win against Cleveland because he was disappointed in Maynor’s effort on the defensive end. “I think I’ve picked it up defensively,” Maynor said. “I don’t think that’s the problem right now. I’m in a funk offensively. But we play 82 games, man. For me to start the season off the way I did, of course, I’m not happy about it but we got 60 more left. So I just got to look forward to playing in this next games. And I’m going to try to take it game by game. I will be better.”
With Webster expected to return from an ankle injury on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks and Bradley Beal working his way back from a stress injury in his right fibula, the Wizards are getting closer to having most of their primary rotation players in the fold. Wall believes that more lineup stability will help Maynor get comfortable.
“I just tell him to play his game,” Wall said of Maynor. “I think he’ll be all right. He’s just got to find his rhythm. And when you get your real bench back and what you have, he can be more consistent with what you want to be.”
Maynor was discarded by Oklahoma City at the trade deadline last February after struggling to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. But he appeared to regain his footing in Portland. He thinks that it is too early to panic.
“Just being in the league, this being my fifth year, I’ve had some rough stretches,” he said. “I was talking to my agent [Andy Miller] and he said, we done had rough stretches but the thing about it is, I’m a strong individual and at the end of the day, I’m going to keep working and I’ll get out of the slump. I’ll get out of the slump here soon. You’ll see a better me.”