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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"We want him to be part of our team on the court as much as we can," Brooks said. "I like him on the road, on the bus, in our huddles, in our locker room. The guy just has a good spirit about him. I'm texting him every other day just to make sure he's still with us. He's a big part of the reason we've had so much success."

On a March 15 trip to Denver, Maynor finally was allowed to re-join the team on the road. "I was up, moving, traveling with them, able to do things with them again," Maynor said with a huge smile. "It made me feel a lot better."

His first two seasons in the league, Maynor had become of the NBA's premier back-up point guards with a calm demeanor that defies his age (24).

Though Maynor's career averages are modest (4.5 points; 3.1 assists; 1.5 rebounds; .408 FG), his consistent effectiveness is undeniable. Maynor's career assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.04-to-1 would have ranked seventh this season. His career 3-point field-goal percentage of .353 is good enough to warrant full-time coverage.

After Maynor was lost, Brooks essentially tried to replace him by committee.

First came rookie Reggie Jackson. Maynor had been a rookie backup to Westbrook himself two seasons earlier. Veteran Royal Ivey was ready in a pinch, particularly when Brooks was looking for energy and aggressive defense in the proper matchup.

Though frequently rattled, Jackson appeared to have gained confidence and composure when 16-year veteran Derek Fisher suddenly was signed as an unrestricted free agent on March 21.

Since his arrival, Fisher has played in all 24 games and averaged 21.0 minutes (including postseason). Jackson has played a total of 19 minutes in five games.

Maynor is limited to being an observer, which he insists will make him a better player when he returns.

Asked if sitting has been educational, Maynor's eyes widened and he said: "This whole year, I have learned so much – just different stuff I see, different stuff I know on the floor. Now when I watch a game, it's like I'm out there. Hopefully I can be better than I was. That's what I'm training to do, get stronger. I'm stronger upper-body wise. I'm getting better with that."

Maynor said his daily regimen consists of soft-tissue work for 30-45 minutes every morning, followed by an hour in the weight room, some shooting, observing practice and ice treatments twice a day.

"I try my best to keep him involved," Brooks said. "I want him at every practice. I want him at every game on the road. I talk to him about different things that he sees during the game. I even asked him to throw some offensive sets at me."

Brooks smiled and added: "I tried to run a few of those sets, they didn't work out too well so I don't ask him those questions any more."

THE FUTURE

Maynor said he knows Thunder fans mean well, but it's OK to not ask about the knee.

"I don't think I go a day without somebody asking me about it," Maynor said. "When am I going to be back? How's it going? But it's good to be thought of, cared about, stuff like that."

Last week, Maynor rejoined Westbrook, Harden and Cook in their usual shooting competition that begins long before practice. "It was the first time we had done it since (last season)," Maynor said.

Maynor initially said Cook won, "or maybe it was James."

Understandably, Maynor is a little rusty.

"He's not really getting out of too many spots, but he's having a great time," Cook said. "Just to see Eric back out there with us and how fast he's recovered, it's amazing."

Maynor's scheduled return remains the team's 2012-13 training camp.

"He's progressing very well," Brooks said.

Maynor said he doesn't have a specific return date in mind.

"I know I'm doing good, I can tell you that," Maynor said. "Getting better day-by-day."

Brooks shakes his head when he thinks about how his team – unsolicited – responded to Maynor.

"He's such a great teammate," Brooks said of Maynor. "When the injury happened, it was devastating because these guys love each other. It's a pretty special group of guys. To see him go down in Houston, that was not easy to take for our entire team. It's special to see how these guys react to each other. We have a deep affection for all our guys.

"This business is so geared toward wins and losses, sometimes you lose perspective on the human element. To see how our guys responded to him, words can't describe. It's really cool our guys supported him initially, and four months later they still give him that support."

How difficult would Maynor's rehab have been without the support of his teammates?

"They picked me up and helped me out," Maynor said, literally and figuratively. "They've been with me this whole process. This is just a great organization to be with, man. They're people who care about each other."

Mohammed said one of the biggest reasons Thunder players became so close is Maynor himself.

"It's that close a group and a lot of it is a credit to him," Mohammed said. "Sometimes a guy goes down, he's away from a team and it's out of sight out of mind. With Eric, even when he was away, he's such a great guy, such a big part of our team. He's always on our minds. We always want to see what's up with him, want to hang out with him, talk to him, mess with him. That's the type of guy he is."

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