O.J. Mayo received a warm welcome from Grizz fans when he walked onto the floor of the FedExForum for the first time since he signed with the Dallas Mavericks. Some even gave him a standing ovation.
His former teammates greeted him with handshakes and a few hugs here and there before the game (Dec. 21). Although his welcome was hearty, his time on the floor was ice cold. And Grizz guard Tony Allen led the charge.
A fifth-year guard, Mayo was covered by Allen and was scoreless in the first quarter. He went into the half with only one point from the line.
"I told Tony, 'you are going to guard him whenever he is in the game,''' Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins said. "O.J. is a big catalyst of that team."
Mayo was held to just 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting with five turnovers, scoring his first field goal late in the third quarter.
Allen detailed his prep work for Mayo.
"I watched (film on Mayo's last three games) and sat here quiet,'' Allen said. "I didn't really talk to my teammates much before the game.
"I was just focused on doing the task at hand because he's been on fire. It was shocking to be out there every time O.J. was out there. Other than that I just stood up to the challenge and was ready when my number was called.''
Allen finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
"I know he hates pressure when he brings the ball up, so anytime I saw him try to get the ball early, I pressed out full," said Allen. "I know he loves to go left. I tried to distract his left hand as much as I could, and I know he's used screens very well, so I tried not to get screened tonight.
"For the most part, this was not about me and O.J. It was about the Grizzlies beat the Mavericks. We did that by playing great team-defense."
Mayo wore a Grizzlies uniform for his first four seasons in the NBA. His last two seasons were spent coming off the bench. He headed to the Mavs after the Grizzlies did not embrace Mayo's $7.3 million qualifying offer.
As a free agent, Mayo signed a two-year, $8,200,900 contract, with the second year being a player's option.
Mayo had somewhat of an idea of what he would face upon his return to Memphis, including a former team committed to making it difficult for him to score.
"It was a little different, Mayo said. "They know my tendencies, and it was pretty much, 'O.J. is not going to get anything and make the other guys make some plays.'"
Mayo's family is still in Memphis and he still owns a home in the city. When asked about his time living in Memphis he responded:
"It was cool, man," he said of his time living in Memphis. "I had a lot of great times here and a lot of experiences. I grew into a man from a young man here, coming in here at 20 years old and leaving at 24. I learned a lot about the professional side, as well as growing into being a man.''
Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle knew Mayo would be facing a big challenge.
"I thought O.J. did a good job of letting the game come to him,'' Carlisle said. "He forced a couple of shots, but he made some very nice passes and he did some good things defensively.
"The first game back to your old place is always challenging from an emotional standpoint. But I thought he did a good job.''
Grizz forward Rudy Gay led all scorers with 26 points and had five rebounds. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol each notched double-doubles. Randolph finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds; Gasol contributed with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Conley finished with nine points and 11 assists.
Shawn Marion led the Mavericks with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Vince Carter scored14 points. Dominique Jones finished with 13 points and seven assists.
The Grizzlies faced the surging Houston Rockets in Houston on Saturday (Dec. 22) at the Toyota Center, where they fell 121-96.
Tonight the Grizz play host to the Philadelphia 76ers, including Thaddeus Young from Memphis.