ST. FRANCIS — Whether the Milwaukee Bucks are a better team this season than last season remains to be seen.
What is already abundantly clear is the noticeably improved culture. While two of the Bucks’ alleged stars from last season — Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings — couldn’t get out of Milwaukee fast enough, most of the Bucks’ key newcomers, particularly Caron Butler and O.J. Mayo, are not only happy to be in Milwaukee but wouldn’t mind staying there for years to come.
Butler, of course, was born and raised in Racine, just south of Milwaukee. With a slew of family members and friends in the area, Butler is like a kid in a candy store these days.
Mayo, who joined the Bucks in the offseason after signing a lucrative three-year, $24 million free agent contract, appears equally content.
He has no regrets about choosing the Bucks over several other teams and not just because the Bucks’ gave him the best financial deal.
“This is a great spot for me, a great destination for me and my family,” said Mayo, who grew up in Huntington, W. Va., before playing collegiately at Southern California and then in the NBA with Memphis and Dallas. “Hopefully, I can be an asset to this team, which I think I can be.”
Mayo has enough faith in his abilities and feels so comfortable already in Milwaukee that he’s already made a major investment in his future.
“I’m happy to be here and I want to stay here,” Mayo said. “That’s why I bought the house here because I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.”
Mayo could indeed be a Buck for a long time. He is considered one of the Bucks’ good, young core pieces. He’s just 25 and has already established himself as a quality two guard when given significant minutes.
In his first two seasons in the NBA with Memphis, Mayo started and averaged 18.5 and 17.5 points a game, respectively. Then, after two more seasons as the Grizzlies’ designated sixth man and seeing his scoring average — and minutes — drastically reduced, Mayo bounced back last season to average 15.3 points as a starter for Dallas.
With the Bucks, Mayo’s minutes figure to mirror what they were in his first two seasons in Memphis, when he averaged 38 minutes, and last year in Dallas, when he averaged 35.5 minutes.
He is clearly the Bucks’ best shooting guard and could arguably become the team’s No. 1 scoring option.
It’s safe to say that if the Bucks are to make the playoffs for the second straight season, Mayo will have to be a high-end scorer. He believes he’s more than up to the task.
“I feel like I’m a legitimate scorer,” Mayo said. “I’ve been a proven scorer in this league.
“At the same time, we have a lot of great pieces here, a lot of guys who can specialize in certain areas to help us win.”
As confident as Mayo is about being a sure-fire scorer for the Bucks, he’s also confident Bucks general manager John Hammond & Co. made the correct call in dismantling last season’s dysfunctional team.
“The attitude around here has been really good,” Mayo said. “We have a workman-like attitude, a blue-collar attitude. If we keep working hard like we have been and stay at it, we can have success.
“Management did a great job of finding guys with the same mentality. We want to show that we’re winners in this league. I think we have a heck of an opportunity.”