DALLAS -- O.J. Mayo tried to paint his first trip to Memphis as a Grizzlies opponent as "just another game on the schedule," but it didn't take much to get him to say that he had some major motivational fodder in his return.
"Going back to a former team that you had some mishaps between the two parties, that's the way it goes," Mayo said late Thursday night. "You obviously want to go back and kick their butts. They want to kick your butt to show that you're not needed, whatever the case may be."
Mayo, who has blossomed into an All-Star candidate for the Dallas Mavericks since signing this past summer for the bargain salary of $4 million, had quite a fall from grace in Memphis.
The Grizzlies planned to build around Mayo at shooting guard after he arrived in Memphis as the third overall pick in the 2008 draft and put up pretty impressive numbers as a rookie, averaging 18.5 points per game. But plans changed and Mayo's numbers plummeted, particularly after he was demoted to sixth man in his last two seasons there.
Mayo butted heads with coach Lionel Hollins and had a much publicized fight on the team plane with teammate Tony Allen, who replaced him in the starting lineup, over a gambling debt. The Grizzlies almost traded Mayo on at least three occasions -- once informing him that he'd been dealt to Boston, only to call him back the next morning after his bags were packed to tell him the deal was off.
Suffice to say, Mayo knew all along that he wouldn't be returning to Memphis after his rookie deal expired at the end of last season.
"Once you see the writing on the wall, you can't be dumb to the fact," said Mayo, who didn't have any discussions with Memphis while he was a free agent. "I didn't even go to the exit meeting. I pretty much knew what it was."
Memphis' management has given big contracts to Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in recent years. Those four are the foundation of a team that sits atop the Southwest Division standings with a 17-6 record.
"Management did what they felt was best for the team," Mayo said, "and it looks like it's working out for them."
The move to the Mavs has worked out for Mayo, who proudly says he always gave the Grizzlies his all despite knowing he didn't fit with the franchise. He ranks ninth in the NBA in scoring this season with 20.2 points per game and leads the league in 3-point percentage (.500).
The truth is Mayo looks forward to trying to light up his former team, although it'll be tough on the butt end of a back-to-back after the Mavs arrived in Memphis at about 2 a.m. local time Friday. It doesn't take too much to get him to admit that he's still mad about his time in Memphis and would love to get a little payback.
"How would you feel? How would you feel?" Mayo said. "It's going to be fun, I think so. .... It's going to be fun."