NEW ORLEANS – This three-game road trip has come and gone and there's no doubt about it that the Portland Trail Blazers are disappointed in a 1-2 outcome that was capped off by a two-point loss to the New Orleans Hornets Sunday night at New Orleans Arena.
Yet, there was a silver lining: The Trail Blazers found out that their newest addition, Eric Maynor, could still play some ball. He has been in recovery mode ever since he tore his right ACL last season. At one point, he was considered by many to be one of the top back-up points guards in the league when he was spelling time for Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
Trail Blazer fans are beginning to see why he was so coveted.
“I think I'm playing good,” Maynor told CSNNW.com. “I can play better. But, I'm getting more comfortable with the system and my teammates. I'm trying to get a feel for what everybody likes. It's going to take some time, but I think I'm playing pretty good right now.”
On this trip, Maynor has averaged 13 points, shot 66 percent from the field and dished out 4.6 assists, highlighted by a 20-point effort in San Antonio. Prior to the trip, on Mar. 4, Maynor had a 10-point game against Charlotte and two days before that contest, he went off for a career-high 12 assists against Minnesota.
Maynor says when the Trail Blazers acquired him at the trade deadline – in exchange for the rights to Greek player Giorgos Printezis – he knew people would question whether he was healthy or not.
So far, his game is answering those questions.
“Mainly I wanted to prove to people that I'm not injured anymore,” Maynor said. “I feel good. That's probably what everybody was thinking, 'Is he healthy? How does his knee feel?' I feel 100 percent, so I'm good.”
Maynor's play has allowed Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts to do something he's been trying to do all season long: Play rookie sensation Damian Lillard at the two for longer stretches. The inconsistent play of Ronnie Price (who was waived to make room for Maynor at the trade deadline) and Nolan Smith simply didn't generate that type of a backcourt set.
“He has been great for us as a second point guard,” Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. “He has been great for getting guys in a rhythm, moving guys around. I think he's been good when teams try to trap Dame. He's been that point guard that lets Dame get off the ball to be a scorer. He's playing great.”
The Trail Blazers will have a big decision to make leading up to this summer on whether they plan to tender Maynor a $3.35 million qualifying offer that would make him a restricted free agent this offseason, giving the franchise the right to match any offer he receives out on the market. If the Trail Blazers opt not to issue the qualifying offer, Maynor would become an unrestricted free agent.
Although Maynor has only been part of the organization for a little over two weeks, he says it would be great if the Trail Blazers tendered him.
“That would be great for me,” he said. “There's a bunch of cool dudes that work hard and want to get better. I'm used to that and those are the type of guys I want to be around. This is the type of team that I want to be on.”
Trail Blazers General Manger Neil Olshey says he's happy with the play of Maynor, but he intends on letting the season play out before coming to a verdict on him and others.
“We acquired Eric because we felt he could be a long term solution at a position of need,” Olshey told CSNNW.com. “Obviously we are pleased with the impact he has made and how quickly he has fit in. We plan to use the remainder of the season to evaluate how he, and all of our potential free agents, fit into our roster composition.”
At 25, Maynor definitely fits the team's age demographic Olshey is looking for to mesh with the young core they currently have on the roster in order to build long-lasting sustainability. It's still early, but if Maynor continues to play at this level, he and the Trail Blazers will get what they want.
“He (Maynor) was definitely a big move for us,” Lillard said. “He makes my job a lot more easier and he's easy to play with because you know he's looking to get his teammates open. I couldn't be happier.”