OKC Thunder: 'Family' lifted Eric Maynor after knee injury, literally and figuratively

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER -- It's been a long season for backup point guard Eric Maynor, who tore his ACL on Jan. 7 in Houston. Maynor the rehab and recovery might have been unbearable if not for his teammates.
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: May 12, 2012
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On Jan. 7, three teammates literally lifted Eric Maynor off the floor at the Toyota Center and gently carried him to the Thunder locker room.

The entire OKC roster figuratively has lifted Maynor ever since.

The Thunder's reserve point guard continues to recover from the torn right anterior cruciate ligament that ended his season that night in Houston.

It has been a painful, difficult and tedious process. Though there were times Maynor felt lonely, he was never alone.

"It's a family here," reserve guard Daequan Cook explained. "We take that very seriously. Eric is a part of this team and we don't want him to feel any other way."

THE PLAY

Thunder forward Nick Collison set a pick for Maynor to go left at the top of the key. Maynor instead opted to drive to his right.

Defended by Houston Rockets point guard Goran Dragic, Maynor took one dribble and planted his right foot about 12 feet away from the basket.

Maynor's right leg immediately buckled at the knee. The ball fluttered harmlessly out of bounds. Maynor collapsed to the floor on his back, rolled over to his left side and clutched his right knee.

There was no foul, no contact. Maynor had been tackled by air, which almost always results in the worst kind of injury.

"I made the move, planted, felt something I ain't never felt before, and just dropped the ball," Maynor recalled. "I knew something was wrong."

The pain was indescribable. "It's big-time pain, man," Maynor said.

Still standing at the top of the key where the fateful sequence began, Collison knew immediately the injury was serious as he leaned forward, put his hands on both knees and hung his head while staring at Maynor curled up in a heap.

As Maynor was being examined by head athletic trainer Joe Sharpe and Dr. Donnie Strack, the entire Thunder bench soon surrounded Maynor along the baseline underneath the basket.

A trio of teammates simultaneously came to Maynor's aid. Kendrick Perkins cupped his arms under Maynor's right leg, Serge Ibaka cupped the left leg and Lazar Hayward stabilized Maynor from behind.

It was no challenge to carry the 175-pound Maynor, but the magnitude of losing him immediately weighed heavily on the minds of the entire Thunder team.

Russell Westbrook gave the back of Maynor's head a gentle pat as he was carried away. James Harden softly placed his hand on Maynor's back.

When Maynor disappeared from sight, OKC players and coaches slowly returned to their bench to discuss strategy during the timeout, but everyone was still distracted, glancing at the spot where Maynor crumbled.

The Thunder went on to win 98-95, thanks mainly to 13 four-quarter points from Kevin Durant, who re-entered during that very timeout with 7:47 remaining.

Maynor flew home with the team that night, but the victory didn't seem to register with any of the passengers. Their thoughts were with the third-year backup point guard out of Virginia Commonwealth.

"Not a good day," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That's the day you don't want to remember."

THE AFTERMATH

Eleven days after suffering the injury, Maynor had surgery. Though the surgical procedure was a success, these were the worst of times for Maynor.

"The first couple weeks were real tough on me," Maynor said. "Just sitting at the house every day, not doing anything after I got done with rehab. It was the worst. I was sitting at the house, watching games, screaming at the TV, just wanting everybody to do good, especially with the second unit. You could tell stuff wasn't flowing like usual with the second unit."

No argument from reserve center Nazr Mohammed.

"He kept our second unit firing on all cylinders," Mohammed said of Maynor. "As soon as he went down, our second unit wasn't as good. Coming into this season, I thought we had the best second unit in the league with him at the point. Not so much because the skill level, but what everyone brings to the group.

"He (Maynor) brought that calmness, knowing the right play to make, who needs the ball, when to say something to you, when not to say something to you. It just made our unit that much better. Since he went down, we've had some excellent games with our second unit. It's still one of the tops in the league. We just haven't been as dominant as we would have liked to be and I credit a lot of that to Eric."

One of the first phone calls Maynor received after getting hurt came from Indiana Pacers forward David West, who had just recovered from knee surgery himself in the offseason.

Perkins, who endured two knee injuries in an eight-month span the year before, constantly shared advice with Maynor.

"Me and Perk talk all the time. Perk keeps me informed, what I need to be doing," Maynor said. "Perk was with me before I got my surgery and when I got my surgery. He was around a lot. James, Daequan, Russ – all them boys – were around a lot. They would come by the house, just chillin' before they'd go on the road for a game."

The entire team wanted Maynor along for the ride, but doctors' orders prevented it.

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