O.J. Mayo relishing opportunity to play Bucks' enforcer


O.J. Mayo relishing opportunity to play Bucks' enforcer

O.J. Mayo heard the chants loud and clear. But don't expect him to change his attitude.

The de-facto enforcer for the youthful Bucks has found himself engaged in a war of words with Jimmy Butler during their first round playoff series with the Bulls, and the back-and-forth added another chapter Monday night in Milwaukee's Game 5 victory.

Twice Mayo and Butler found themselves face-to-face, jawing back and forth during dead-ball situations before being sent back to their metaphorical corners by their teammates. On the second occasion the heated conversations resulted in double technicals on the respective shooting guards, with the United Center faithful responding with chants of, "O-J-sucks!"

But for the defensive-minded Bucks, who have suddenly found themselves back in the playoff series - down 3-2 heading back to Milwaukee with momentum for Game 6 on Thursday - it's exactly what Mayo wants. Looking for any kind of spark against the favorites, the Bucks have bodied up the superior Bulls and found an edge, gaining camaraderie and confidence in the process.

"At the end of the day, when you have 22,000 people chanting, ‘You suck,’ I know my guys got my back," Mayo said. "So if I happen to suck tonight my guys hopefully are going to step up and play well."

Mayo didn't shoot well, going 2-for-8 in the win, but he did add 10 points and four assists in 26 minutes while playing stifling defense on Butler, who needed 21 shots to score 20 points. But more important than any numbers he's produced in the box score, Mayo has grasped the reins and relished his role as the muscle on a Bucks team full of young contributors making their playoff debuts.

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True, Mayo is just 27 years old and has 25 playoff games to his resume, but on a team whose three leading scorers are 23 and younger he's the seasoned veteran who can get away with scuffling and not only maintain his level of play, but motivate the players around him. The same can be said for veteran Zaza Pachulia, who has drawn the ire of the Bulls for his actions in Game 2, when he drew two technical fouls and was ejected for his tiff with Nikola Mirotic.

The Bucks have no intention of getting in a shootout with a Bulls team that averaged nearly 101 points per game in the regular season; the Bucks ranked second-to-last in offensive efficiency and are 10-30 this season when opponents score 100 or more points. That means dirtying up the game, slowing things down and, if need be, going face-to-face with the Bulls stars. Reserve forward Jared Dudley, an eight-year veteran, admitted as much, specifically mentioning Butler's demeanor on the court as needing retribution of some kind.

"That’s the way we have to play. We’re not as talented. We have to muck the game up, be physical at times," he said. "Jimmy Butler’s celebrating after every time, but it’s fine. It’s part of the game, so O.J. will step into that, start celebrating and getting into him, letting him know that he’s going to be here for the whole game."

[MORE: Carter-Williams steals the spotlight from Rose, Bulls]

Whether or not Mayo actually has gotten in Butler's head - Butler has broken out in the series, averaging 26.6 points per game - it's a tactic Mayo plans on continuing, picking and choosing his spots to get in tussles and when to buckle down; he did that in Game 5, limiting Butler to 1-for-7 shooting in the final quarter.

"Playoffs are pretty much always physical. At the end of the day it’s a win or go home type of situation, so it’s going to put you on the edge as far as intensity-wise," Mayo said. "Just got to try to do the best job of staying poised at the right time and focused on what’s right for the team."

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Miami Marlins center fielder Monte Harrison made a bit of history on Aug. 4, when he laced up for his first ever MLB game.

With his debut, he and older brother Shaq officially became just the sixth MLB-NBA brother duo in league history. The most recent? Klay and Trayce Thompson, the latter of which appeared in his last MLB game on June 20, 2018 for the White Sox. Chicago ties all around.

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Shaq used his trademark brand of heart and hustle to work his way up from two 10-day contracts with the Phoenix Suns to a multi-year pact with the Bulls. Monte's path to the majors began in 2014 after the Milwaukee Brewers plucked him in the second round of the Amateur Draft from Lee's Summit West High School in Lee's Summit, Mo. He was jettisoned to Miami as part of the Christian Yelich trade in 2018. 

In 2019, Monte played 58 games between Miami's High-A and Triple-A affiliates, slashing .270/.351/.441 with 9 home runs, 24 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He's been known to flash some leather, too, and entered this season the club's tenth-ranked prospect.

Since his call-up, he's appeared in four contests (three starts) with the Marlins, and is just 1-for-10 at the plate with five strikeouts. But we'll forgive some early-career stumbles. His first big-league base-knock, which came on Thursday, was perfectly emblematic of what Bulls fans have come to expect from the Harrison household.

Yup. A cue-shot infield single. Exit velocity: 44.3 mph. Expected batting average: .190. But he beat it out. And followed it up with a stolen base. You can't script this stuff.

"I don’t know what my mother did, a lot of prayers, a lot of believing, and trust in us," Monte said after his debut on Tuesday, via Bob Nightengale. "We just worked our ass off.''

That much is evident.

RELATED: How Bulls’ Shaq Harrison impacts games, even with limited playing time


Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

With the NBA restarting with 22 of its 30 teams, there was buzz in early July of a second bubble coming to Chicago for the eight teams excluded to get in organized team activities and possibly scrimmages.

Now, it appears those talks have significantly slowed, if not stalled entirely.

The Athletic reported Tuesday that there is "significant doubt" the second bubble concept will come to fruition, but Friday, that bringing the "Delete Eight" teams into the Disney campus has been discussed. Any agreement — whether it be a full-on bubble or respective, in-market OTAs — would require stringent safety protocols and need to be agreed upon by the league and NBPA.

On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down the latest scuttlebut:

Well, the latest is, you really got only one shared goal between these eight teams and that is to get some kind of formal group activities authorized by the league and the players association.

How that plays out and the form that takes, there are different goals. There are some teams that wouldn't mind doing a bubble. There are other teams that would rather stay in their own practice facilities and not travel. There are other teams that want to do regional scrimmages against another team. And complicating this is that Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players association, is on record as saying: Unless there are the exact same safety protocols going on in Orlando for the second bubble, it's a non-starter for her.

The league's attention mostly has been in Orlando, obviously, and that was a signficant financial undertaking. So you'd also have to factor in that, what kind of financial undertaking would they commit to these eight teams. It did look like there was some positive momentum for, not a bubble, but for each team to be able to hold some sort of offseason training sessions, group sessions in their own facilities, like OTAs in the NFL.

And I don't think that's dead, but there's certainly not as much optimism as there was maybe a week, ten days ago for that. I mean, it's fluid, and there's nothing definitive yet, but you may be staring at that dreaded eight month window between formal group activities for these eight teams. 

In the episode, the crew also breaks down the week in NBA bubble action, talks Jim Boylen and more. Listen here or via the embedded player below: