There is a battle to be the Thunder's backup point guard, but Eric Maynor's basketball life is far more complicated than beating out Reggie Jackson for the position.
Maynor's future is partially contingent on the contract extension of teammate James Harden.
— If the Thunder can't afford to re-sign Harden, then it absolutely positively can't afford to re-sign Harden and Maynor.
— If Harden doesn't sign before Oct. 31, he will join Maynor in a holding pattern as a restricted free agent, at which time both potentially could become trade bait.
— If an unsigned Maynor plays well this season, will he price himself out of what the Thunder could afford to match when another team offers next July?
— Is Maynor gone no matter what, and that's why Jackson has been thrown into the mix?
Maynor's circumstances are very fluid and show the harsh realities of playing in the NBA.
Entering the final year of your rookie contract while you're coming off a season-ending injury is a double-whammy for Maynor. It's highly unlikely Maynor has even received an extension offer from Thunder general manager Sam Presti, who is simply showing due diligence given Maynor's knee surgery.
Not even a potential loophole could save the incumbent his job. Some coaches claim a player won't lose his position due to injury and will simply return to his spot when healthy. Not so in this case.
“Going into a new season, I think the minutes have to be earned,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “During the season, if that happened and he (Maynor) came back, then that would be something different. There (were) a lot of games between his injury and now.”
Maynor missed the final 77 games last season (including the playoffs) after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in Houston on Jan. 7. Jackson sat 35 of the final 40 games and played just 19 total minutes after veteran guard Derek Fisher joined the Thunder via free agency on Feb. 21.
Maynor and Jackson are opposite attractions. Their only similarity is being listed at 6-foot-3. At 208 pounds, Jackson weighs 33 pounds more than the 175-pound Maynor.
Their on-court demeanors differ. Maynor is composed and confident. Jackson is explosive and athletic.
Maynor's rookie stats were far superior to Jackson's (see chart), but Jackson is coming off a superb showing at the Orlando Summer League in July, which he readily admits provided a much-needed confidence boost.
The mixture of Maynor coming back and Jackson breaking out has created an intriguing tango at training camp.
"That spot is open," Brooks said, "and we have two great choices."
Maynor and Jackson insist their competition is no different from a year ago.
“We're going to compete every day,” Maynor said. “At the end of the day, Scott is going to be the one who calls that shot.”
Beating out freakish Russell Westbrook for OKC's starting point guard position appears to be impossible, although don't tell Maynor.
“Anybody out there is competition. I'm competing with Russ every day,” Maynor said with conviction.
On a couple of occasions at key moments in 2009-10 and 2010-11, Brooks benched Westbrook in favor of Maynor.
Adding to the awkwardness of Maynor vs. Jackson is the fact they compared game observations while riding the bench four straight months, sharing ideas with each other and coaches from March through June.
No big deal, Maynor insists. That's how it should happen.
“If I see somebody doing something (wrong) and they should be doing something different, I'm going to tell him, and that's vice versa,” Maynor said. “We're going to push each other every day.”
Maynor has received rave reviews at camp from teammates, some claiming he “looks like the old Eric.” Harden flashed a wide smile discussing Maynor, a third-year-player out of Virginia Commonwealth.
“He looks like he never left,” Harden said. “He's looking very good. He's playing well. He's playing hesitation-free with his floater, great passes. It looks like he's ready to go.”
A second-year player out of Boston College, Jackson has flashes of athleticism that compare to Westbrook, which included an eye-opening dunk over Utah Jazz shot blocker Jeremy Evans while driving down the lane in Orlando.
“Reggie's really improved his game. He's confident,” Brooks said. “It's a learning curve in this league and sometimes it takes longer than others (for) some players. I thought they both came back in great spirits, good shape and the last two days have been very competitive.”
MAYNOR VS. JACKSON
Backup point guard Eric Maynor played 55 games for the Thunder as a rookie in 2009-10 after being acquired in a trade with the Utah Jazz on Dec. 22, 2009.
Reserve point guard Reggie Jackson played 45 games for the Thunder as a rookie in 2011-12 after being selected 24th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft.
As both players battle for the backup role to All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook this season, here is a look at the rookie stats of Maynor and Jackson:
MAYNOR (6-foot-3, 175)
G, MIN, FG, 3FG, FT, REB, AST, ST, TO, PTS
55, 16.5, .434, .362, .692, 1.7, 3.4, 0.5, 1.0, 4.5
JACKSON (6-foot-3, 208)
45, 11.1, .321, .210, .862, 1.2, 1.6, 0.6, 0.8, 3.1