Former third overall pick O.J. Mayo has now been out of the NBA for a full season, having been banned for two years for violating the terms of the league’s anti-drug program. However, as Ben Golliver of SI.com details in an in-depth look at Mayo’s current situation, the veteran shooting guard received FIBA clearance last November and has interest in playing for a team in China, Spain, or Israel.
Despite that interest, Mayo has not yet fielded offers from teams in those countries and leagues. In the meantime, the 29-year-old has been working with skills and development coach Chris Johnson and strength and fitness trainer Travelle Gaines in the hopes of getting back into game shape. If no international opportunities materialize, Mayo is expected to continue his training program with Johnson and Gaines in Minnesota, where the duo will work with Jimmy Butler.
Mayo, who acknowledged that abuse of a prescription pain medication triggered his two-year ban from the NBA, said that not being able to play basketball last season was “probably the closest thing to jail that I’ll get to,” adding that it was the low point of his life.
“The shellshock of not being in the NBA,” Mayo said. “All my peers are playing and I’m not because of boneheaded mistakes. Take the ball away, what is there to do?”
Mayo will be eligible to apply for reinstatement to the NBA on July 1, 2018, and his return must be approved by both the league and the players’ union. As Golliver notes, a number of factors will go into that decision, and Mayo will have to show that he hasn’t failed any marijuana or drug tests for a year prior to his reinstatement. If he does get the chance to play in the NBA again, the former Buck suggests he might like another chance to prove his worth in Milwaukee.
“I want to go back to what I left [in Milwaukee],” Mayo told Golliver when asked about his dream destination. “I was real close with [head coach] Jason Kidd. That was the best relationship I had with a coach besides [AAU coach Dwaine Barnes]. I had great relationships with Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and Khris Middleton. I was comfortable there. I felt like I let them down, cheated them for two years. They paid me $8 million to be, in my eyes, a subpar player. They invested millions of dollars for me to be on top of my s–t, and when you’re not on top of your s–t, it shows. I’ll be 30 next summer. If they just give me the chance, I can make it up. I owe them.”