Want to know a few things about Eric Maynor? Here are 18 truths about the guard the Trail Blazers acquired in a trade with the Thunder on Feb. 21:
No. 1: The NBA lockout in 2011 made a league of professional basketball players a restless bunch. So while he was out of work, Eric Maynor needed a hobby. He found it while sitting in a tattoo shop.
“Bored,” Maynor said, explaining why he turned his body into a canvas during the 149-day lockout.
Back in high school, Maynor had already inked a basketball and a crown with the words “My Life,” but now tattoos stretch up and down both arms as well as one that seems to be a life’s motto etched over his chest.
Born 2 B Hated, Dying 2 B Loved.
“It’s not like somebody hates me,” Maynor said. “(But) you go with the life I live, people always have something to say. There was always criticism growing up. ‘You can’t make it to the pros. You’re too small. You’re not going to a big enough school.’ All types of stuff like that.”
No. 2: Maynor is a country boy, and you might have only heard of his hometown, Raeford, N.C., around Thanksgiving. House of Raeford Farms, Inc. ranks as the ninth largest turkey producer in America and it just so happens to hail from Maynor’s backyard. Turkeys are the town business and many of the 5,000 residents clock in every day at that slaughterhouse since House of Raeford is Raeford’s largest employer.
No. 3: George Maynor never worked there. But he wasn’t expecting to return to Raeford so soon after his basketball career anyway. George played point guard at the local Hoke County High in Raeford before following the bouncing ball to a junior college and finally East Carolina University. Then in 1979, with the 72nd pick of the NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls selected the pass-first point guard out of East Carolina. George lasted close to two weeks in training camp then on a Friday night before an exhibition game, reality caught up with the fourth-round draft pick. The head coach, Jerry Sloan, requested to see George in his office. The meeting was brief and Sloan told George that he had been released.
“I shared that with (my sons) Tony, Rodney and Eric about my experience going through things,” George said. “That was the first time I’ve ever been cut from a team or released from a team, and I tell ya, it leaves an empty spot in your stomach. But you got to keep on, you’ve got to have a back-up plan.”
George Maynor returned to Raeford, found work as a corrections officer and had five children. When they started playing basketball, he raised his boys as point guards.
No. 4: Maynor responds to almost every text message from his former AAU coach Shaune Griffin with “yessssir.” Griffin believes he has a thousand messages ending in that catch phrase, which he pronounces as “yes-ZURR!” Whenever he gets that text, Griffin knows that Maynor must be feeling good.
No. 5: Around the North Raeford Trailer Park, the basketball court was covered in dirt and the goal posts were chopped from light company power line poles. Tony Crawford learned from the older guys how to drive the nails into the plywood then cement the large poles into the ground, so that he and his little brother, Eric, could make their own goals.
No. 6: Barbara Johnson believes her baby boy started following his older brothers to the court when he was 6 years old. It was also around that time when she discovered that he could play. So, she did not mind driving Maynor to and from practice — because she knew he loved the game. Johnson worked the third shift at a group home and also held down a job at a factory, but still served as the chauffeur to Maynor’s dreams.
“He used to tell me all the time,” Johnson recalled. ” ‘Mom, it’s going to pay off one day. Just believe. Just trust me.'”
Certainly weary from a long day and night at work, Johnson would only reply.
” ‘OK, Eric.’ “
No. 7: Media guides list Maynor at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, and “I’ve always been this frail,” he said. “Skinny dude.” Even so, in high school, his football coach thought he’d make a better quarterback than a point guard.
No. 8: But, he was actually a pretty good high school point guard, too. Maynor played three years at his father’s alma mater before transferring his senior year to team with his best friend De’Shaune Griffin whose father, Shaune, coached their AAU team and also worked as an assistant at Fayetteville’s Westover High. During the regional finals game to go to state, Westover trailed by double-digits with about three minutes remaining in regulation. Then, as Shaune Griffin recalls, Maynor took over. He locked down New Hanover’s ball handlers, scored in transition, set up teammates, rebounded their misses and pushed the game into overtime. Westover won and advanced to the state title game.
“The best game I have ever seen. … (Maynor) did everything,” Griffin said. “I think he walked by and sold the coach popcorn, too.”
No. 9: With the 20th pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz selected Eric Maynor of Virginia Commonwealth University. The head coach of the Jazz liked Maynor’s feel for the game and command on the floor, but he also thought he needed to get into the weight room. The coach was Jerry Sloan — the same man who had drafted and cut Maynor’s father 30 years earlier.
No. 10: Before Christmas Day in his rookie season, the Jazz traded Maynor to Oklahoma City.
No. 11: Maynor is loyal. His inner circle welcomes a few and remains locked. De’Shaune Griffin lived off and on with his best friend in Salt Lake City. Crawford, too, moved to Oklahoma City to be close with his youngest brother. It was Crawford who picked up Maynor from the airport the January night last year after he had suffered a major knee injury in Houston.
No. 12: George Maynor was sitting at home alone and watched the Houston-Oklahoma City game on NBA League Pass. He saw his son try to plant his feet, then elevate. When the knee buckled and Eric hollered in pain, George knew potentially career-threatening damage had been done. Even so, the father responded with his heart — not his head.
” ‘Get up, boy!’ ” Maynor said to the television, then again: ” ‘Get up, boy!’
“And he didn’t get up. Aww, man. This is serious.”
No. 13: The test results the next day revealed Maynor had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the first serious injury he ever had in his career. Maynor would miss the remainder of the lockout-shortened year, including the Thunder’s run to the NBA Finals. Crawford stopped using his guest pass to attend the Thunder games, choosing instead to watch them at his brother’s house.
“I didn’t want him to go to depressed modes,” Crawford said.
No. 14: Christmas hasn’t always marked great times in Maynor’s career. Late last year around the holiday, Thunder coach Scott Brooks pulled Maynor aside for a talk. Maynor had worked hard to rehabilitate his knee before the start of Oklahoma City’s training camp. Still, after such a long time away from the court, Maynor needed to get his legs back under him — a reason behind his slumping shooting percentage. While trying to do so, Maynor spiraled in the point-guard rotation.
“The conversation I had in December (with Maynor), I just made the decision that I was going to play Reggie (Jackson),” Brooks said. “I just wanted him to be ready, stay ready and keep working on his game. Physically, he was 100 percent. … (but) when you have an injury like that, it takes time. It takes time just to really trust it.”
Maynor remained ready through spot duty — six minutes in a blowout win over Minnesota, four during another resounding victory over the Los Angeles Lakers — but mostly sat on the bench, which included seven straight DNPs (Did Not Play).
No. 15: Maynor felt comfortable in the small-town atmosphere that surrounded the Thunder. The players were young and close. Maynor’s leased home in Edmond, Okla., was just two miles from Kendrick Perkins and another four from Kevin Durant. During summers, Maynor would often fly with James Harden back to his Los Angeles hometown for workouts.
No. 16: When the Trail Blazers made the Feb. 21 trade deadline deal for Maynor, Barbara Johnson had never heard of Portland then looked on the map and exclaimed: “Lord, that’s a long way!” For his part, Maynor took the trade from Oklahoma City, a place he loved, as a professional. He moved into a hotel room, which he still occupies, and began studying footage of his new team. In only his third game with the Blazers, Maynor dished out a career-high 12 assists.
No. 17: Griffin watched that game on his 72-inch, a March 12 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves that made him feel like was cheering from courtside. In spite of the three-hour difference, Griffin sent out a congratulatory text to Portland.
Yessssir, was the response.
No. 18: Maynor believes he is back to 100 percent, and his shooting stroke continues to progress as he gets more time in the Blazer backcourt. This is stop No. 3 in his brief career and after this summer, another destination could be on the horizon. Although family members believe he would like to stay in Portland, Maynor will become an unrestricted free agent if the Blazers don’t match his qualifying offer. Through doubts about his size and questions about his recovery, Maynor is still dying to be loved.