- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2013


Some news passed across the desk early Monday that looks as if it will become a reality. This news will serve a dual purpose.

It will make the Wizards better.

It will make me very happy.

The Wizards are probably more concerned about the first part of it, which is understandable. Nonetheless, they will be getting a thank-you card from me.

Michael Lee of The Washington Post noted on Twitter on Monday morning that the Wizards had contacted free-agent guard Eric Maynor about joining the team. Later Monday, Lee tweeted that a deal had been reached.

Maynor became a free agent when the Portland Trail Blazers, the team that acquired him from Oklahoma City late in the season, decided not to extend a qualifying offer. The Blazers just drafted C.J. McCollum out of Lehigh, which kind of squeezes Maynor out of the picture. So he became an unrestricted free agent.

He’ll cost a couple of million or more, so I can’t help the Wizards there.

But I can vouch for this: They are getting a quality piece who will help greatly as the team tries to distance itself from its fairly recent days as Knucklehead Central. He can play, and you won’t have to worry about Maynor making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In what seems like another lifetime ago, I spent 14 months working in the athletic communications office at Virginia Commonwealth University. The job really wasn’t a good fit, which is more on me than it is on them. But it wasn’t a bad time, either. I worked with a lot of quality people. Among them — Eric Maynor.

Somewhere in the current office waiting to get hung on the wall is a framed shot of Maynor rising to hit the shot that beat Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2007. The shot itself became legendary in VCU’s history and it served as something of a national coming-out party for a player VCU already knew was pretty good. To get in the NCAA tournament, VCU had to beat George Mason in the CAA championship game. Maynor had a two-minute spurt toward the end where he scored nine points and helped deliver the comeback victory.

By the time he was done, Maynor was a two-time CAA Player of the Year who also made the league’s all-academic team once.

Whatever we needed out of him, Maynor delivered. As the face of the program, he was in demand for a lot of interviews and he handled it with grace.

After his last home game, countless fans stayed around to see if they could get Maynor to sign a poster, the score sheet, a program, a T-shirt, something, anything. Part of my job was to get him from interview to interview and he mentioned he’d like to take care of those fans. I told him that could take awhile but if he wanted to do it, I’d stay so he could. (Maynor could more than handle himself but someone had to be the bad guy if things got out of hand or the session went on too long.)

“They’ve supported me for four years, I’ll stay as late as I need to stay,” Maynor said.

And he did. He signed everything thrown at him and posed for a lot of pictures. All with a genuine smile.

Among his teammates, he was like the Pied Piper. I’ve never seen a better leader, never seen anyone who commands respect the way Maynor did.

While that high level of character counts for something, it certainly isn’t enough reason for the Wizards to sign Maynor. He has to be able to play, too, and he can.

Keep in mind the Wizards aren’t looking to replace John Wall. They’re looking for a capable backup, someone who can keep things moving in the right direction when Wall comes out for a breather. Maynor performed that job very well in Oklahoma City and again in his brief stay in Portland. He’s also capable of playing the other guard slot.

From The Oregonian’s website: “In 27 appearances with the Blazers, Maynor averaged 6.9 points and 4.0 assists in 21.2 minutes per game, and his addition provided a late-season spark for eventual Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard.”

Pretty good work for a backup.

In another article on The Oregonian’s website, Lillard spoke of the difference in his game after Maynor’s arrival. “I feel a huge difference,” Lillard said. “Everything has opened up. Everything has slowed down.”

He has averages of 4.5 points and 3 assists for his career. A knee injury cost him much of the 2011-12 season, but he showed last season he was fully recovered.

He will be a plus on the court for the Wizards. He’ll be a plus off the court for the Wizards. I may be the happiest Washingtonian now that it is about to happen. Everyone else will follow suit later.

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