Maynor Returns Home An Improved Player

As both teams huddled up during a timeout toward the end of a recent controlled intrasquad scrimmage, the coaches stepped aside and the point guards were left holding the dry erase board. It was their turn to call the shots.

Eric Maynor took the marker and board and instructed his teammates on what they were going to do. While Maynor later said that having all eyes on him during the huddle was something he wasn’t used to, he still came through on the assignment.

It was a lesson in assertiveness and accountability, the same traits that Maynor embraced as a rookie backup point guard with the Thunder and exemplified more recently at the Orlando Summer League where he took ownership of the team’s offense as the lead guard.

And it’s a lesson the Thunder wants Maynor to take with him into his second season and first full one with the Thunder.

“With him it’s all about controlling the game, controlling the offense and making sure everyone’s on the same page,” head coach Scott Brooks said.

Brooks said that Maynor should get considerable time in that role on Wednesday, when the Thunder opens its preseason schedule against the Charlotte Bobcats in Fayetteville, N.C., a short drive from Maynor’s hometown of Raeford.

With the starting unit expected to play in the 18-24 minute range, Brooks said that Maynor could end up playing 20-plus minutes in front of a home crowd that he’ll be very familiar with.

Preseason or not, players still have to earn minutes, which Maynor has, according to Brooks.

“Since we’ve acquired him from Utah he’s done a great job of continuing to get better,” Brooks said.

The Thunder acquired Maynor, the No. 20 pick in the 2009 draft, shortly before last Christmas when former Thunder guard Kevin Ollie was out with an injury. Maynor has backed up Russell Westbrook ever since, and the Virginia Commonwealth product finished his rookie campaign with the best assist-to-turnover ratio in his class at 3.13 per game.

While this is Maynor’s first training camp with the Thunder, he entered it already familiar with the system.

“Just being with them last year, just knowing everything, I think that was great for me throughout training camp,” Maynor said. “I talked to Nick (Collison), he said it’s easier my second time coming around. I didn’t even know what to expect for training camp but it’s just like practicing during the year. Training camp is just exactly how we practiced during the year so I’m good with everything.”

In nearly 16 minutes a game he logged with the Thunder last season, Maynor proved capable of being able to initiate the offense, knife his way through the lane and consistently hit a running floater. This season, he wants to become a better defender, and returning to training camp much stronger than he was at the end of his rookie season should help that.

Asked what type of progression he hopes to see from Maynor in his second season, Brooks said, “Just continue to keep command of the team, continue to just run the team. He has to be the coach on the floor. His assist to turnover ratio was good last year. I think he can keep getting better at that. With Eric, his conditioning is much better. His strength is much better from the work that he put in this summer. We feel comfortable with all of our guards handling the ball and he’s another good playmaker on our team.”

Maynor’s hometown crowd should get an idea of just how much he’s developed since his senior year at Westover High, about a nine-mile drive from where the Thunder and Bobcats will play at the Crown Coliseum.

Maynor’s only memory of the Crown Coliseum, a holiday tournament game, was a forgettable one.

“I don’t remember (what I had) but we lost,” he recalled. “My high school coach, I just talked to him yesterday. We had a bad taste from being in that building.”

But this trip home is a special one for Maynor, who joked that he’ll probably know everyone at the game. Most of his family and friends have had tickets for a while now.

“It means a lot, just going back and playing in front of your hometown, playing in front of your family, because you’ve got friends that can’t see you play all the time,” Maynor said. “It’s going to be great for me to go back there and all my family and friends will come to check my team out.”

Contract Chris Silva