An NBA return doesn’t seem to be coming, but O.J. Mayo is set to sign with a powerhouse team in China.
Since he last played in the NBA, O.J. Mayo has spent time playing in Europe and China. Now, according to Kevin Wang of ESPN, the former lottery pick is close to joining the Liaoning Flying Leopards in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Mayo landed in the northern Chinese city of Shenyang last Friday. He has since entered a 14-day quarantine, as mandated by government medical officials. After the quarantine, medical clearance and additional paperwork will be necessary before he’s registered to play. The league suspended play in late January and is targeting a return to action in May.
After one ballyhooed season at USC, Mayo was the third overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Memphis Grizzlies on draft night. He averaged 18.5 points per game as a rookie and 17.5 points per game in his second year, but then his production fell off.
In July of 2016, Mayo received a two-year suspension for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug Program. He was unable to latch on with an NBA team right away, and rather than play in the G-league he opted to go play overseas. At this point, it’s safe to say we’ve seen the last of Mayo in the NBA.
The Flying Leopards have two other former NBA players on their roster, Lance Stephenson and Brandon Bass. But they are both currently back in the United States, which stands to be a challenge for them to rejoin the team as a foreign travel ban is sure to remain in place for a while.
Mayo spent time last season playing for Hunan in China’s second-tier league, the NBL. So it won’t be his first experience playing in China, but it will be an uptick in the level of competition when and if he takes the floor for the Flying Leopards.