ORLANDO, Fla. -- O.J. Mayo sat at the table, blue jeans, black shirt, well-prepared and seemingly comfortable. He was gracious, all yes sirs and no ma'ams and pretty much willing to talk about anything ... except you know what.
|Jerryd Bayless: 'It's just the system. It's been like that.' (AP)|
So Mayo has subscribed to the Mark McGwire school of public relations, and that's fine. Nobody came to the Hyatt Grand Cypress here on this sunny Thursday afternoon expecting any big revelations from Mayo, certainly not an admission of guilt. So when the former USC Trojan sat at a table in a ballroom and answered every did-you-take-money-from-an-agent type question with guarded words it was hardly a surprise.
We weren't getting anything from O.J.
That was clear pretty quickly.
But around him -- at a table to the left, to the right, over there and back that way -- various other projected NBA lottery picks sat and openly discussed Mayo's situation, guys like Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley and Donte' Greene and Eric Gordon. Almost to a man, they all said they felt badly for Mayo, that he isn't a rotten guy or quite how he appears. And though nobody was willing to incriminate themselves and tell personal stories, they all seemed keenly aware that they could've been the one outed on Outside the Lines if different decisions would've been made in their lives.
"It's just the system," former Arizona star Jerryd Bayless said. "It's been like that."
Bayless said this in the calmest of tones, like he was talking about absolutes in life. The sky is blue, grass is green and runners (like Rodney Guillory) target elite prospects (like Mayo) at an early age. This is just the reality of the business, Bayless said, and he answered quickly when asked how many Guillory-types tried to approach him through the years.
"I don't know," Bayless said. "There's been a lot of them."
In other words, more than Bayless can count.
"A lot of people misperceive the things that they do," Bayless added. "They're not coming at you like, 'Hey, come with me. Meet me at my hotel and I'm going to give you a suitcase full of money.' It's not like that.
"It's just people who have an agenda. They might not give you the money right off the bat. They're just trying to do something in the long run so if you do turn out to be that person they can get paid after that. But they're not just gonna come to the AAU tournament and give you a boatload of money. That's not how it really works."
No, it's much slower than that.