Former San Antonio Spurs guard Roger Mason Jr. played two years in San Antonio, resuscitating a career that landed him everywhere from Washington to Chicago to Toronto to Jerusalem.
After acquiring Mason in what many called a free agent steal before the 2008-09 season, the Spurs gave Mason the biggest role he had ever had and a 10 minute playing time increase, something Mason says isn’t easily forgotten.
“One of the best basketball experiences of my life playing here with Coach Pop and the guys Tony, Tim and Manu,” Mason told me before Monday’s Spurs vs. Wizards game. “I learned a lot. With a young team like this, I definitely try to teach them some of the things they taught me.”
After a career year with the Spurs, averaging 11.8 points per game and shooting 42 percent beyond the arch, Mason saw a considerable drop in minutes, role and production, Mason opted to test the free agent waters in the summer of 2010 and later joined the New York Knicks.
Now with the Washington Wizards for a second stint, Mason is adjusting to playing for a younger team.
“We’re a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde. There’s games where we’ve beaten Oklahoma City and the Lakers and there’s games where we’ve lost to anybody so for us it’s about which team shows up,” Mason said. “Is it gonna be about the team that plays unselfish, that defends and rebounds or is it going to be the team that plays one-on-one basketball.”
Mason, who was known for a trademark hip slap and pointing up after hitting big shots in San Antonio is also adjusting to playing inconsistent minutes from night to night.
“My role goes beyond just playing physically,” he said. “Being in the locker room. Being a good example and just explaining to them what it means to be a professional.”
And as for his former team, Mason says the Spurs are definitely a contender.
“Absolutely. Tim’s healthy. I think the biggest thing for them is to stay healthy,” Mason said. “Healthy Manu, Tim and Tony. You can’t count them out.”
Speaking of counting the Spurs out, Mason had a front row seat to Tim Duncan going coast-to-coast for a dunk, something he said he wasn’t surprised to see.
“Looking at film and watching him (Duncan) play, his body looks great. He looks like he can continue to play at a high level for a couple more years.”
Before the Wizards’ current three-game skid, they had one of their best games against the Los Angeles Lakers. In just 12 minutes, Mason relived one of his best moments as a Spur by knocking down four of seven three-pointers for 14 points.
“It was good to get an opportunity to play and to show that I can still do what I do,” Mason said.
It’s easy to see that Mason is a leader in a Wizards locker room that needs a ton of guidance. And while he waits for his chance to get into a game to make a difference, he’ll continue to make a difference for his team off the court.
Project Spurs’ Paul Garcia contributed to this interview.