By RICK SOLEM
O.J. Mayo took a timeout Thursday to tie his shoe.
He didn’t officially take a timeout. Instead, he just stopped, while on defense, to do it. Yes, while on defense.
It doesn’t seem bad, because, for some reason, Foye just stands in the corner as if to say, “I’ll wait for ya,” but Mayo could have gotten the defensive rebound – shoe tied or not – in the midst of a three-point game with just over a minute to play in the first half.
But Mayo said, “I just didn’t want to trip over my shoestring there, so seen an opportunity to try and get my shoe tight and be ready to play. But sorry about that. Just trying to stay safe.”
In his defense, he was coming off a 10-game absence and didn’t want to get injured. Oh wait, he was out “for an illness and conditioning issues.”
What’s more pathetic is what else he said after the game, and I’m not sure if he talked about shoe-gate before or after these comments: “I think these last 28 games, it’s big for us to set a foundation going into next year, knowing and learning as a young team how hard it takes to win games,” Mayo said.
And he kept talking and talking, everything you want to hear from a guy that’s a big part of a young team going forward. Or was this something you hear from a guy that’s trying to steer the conversation away from why the hell he stopped on defense to tie his shoe.
“Hopefully we get them ingredients these last 28 games, go out there and play every game as if it’s a meaningful game, as if we were, per say, getting ready for the playoffs,” he continued. “Just learning, understand what it takes going into next year.”
Sadly, this isn’t the first time a Milwaukee Buck has done this. Center Dan Gadzurich – right up there with Lew Alcindor of Bucks great centers – stopped for a shoe tie in 2010 and the result was almost worse, if only because it took him 20 minutes and the team turned the ball over.
It’s almost unfair to pile on the Bucks this season. They’re 10-44, four games worse than the Philadelphia 76ers (15-41), who, by all accounts, should end up with the worst record in the NBA when it’s all said and done, after trading two starters Thursday - but don’t underestimate Milwaukee.
There is, however, no excuse for stopping during a defensive possession to tie your shoe – though if I were the Nuggets coach, I’d be as mad at Foye for not cutting to the basket, though they scored anyway.
Hopefully Mayo is serious about trying to play each game as if it’s meaningful. I’m not sure why a professional player of his caliber needs more than the eight million reasons he’s already getting – he signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Bucks last summer - to try hard, but apparently, he does.
He’s been in and out of the starting lineup this season for various reasons, but mainly because he’s fallen out of favor with coach Larry Drew. His minutes have dipped to just over 22 a game. He’s averaging 12.2 points on a dismal 40-percent shooting, to go with just 2.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and .6 steals.
But maybe, pending his shoes being tied, he can return to the guy who shot 45 percent, dished out 4.4 assists and averaged 15.3 per game last year.