Hornets will lean on Mason for experience, treys

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Roger Mason is not that old. The University of Virginia product just celebrated his 32nd birthday on Sept. 10. If the shooting guard were playing for, say, the 2012-13 New York Knicks, he’d be considered a young whippersnapper, with a handful of senior teammates such as 40-year-old Kurt Thomas and the no-longer-aptly-named, 39-year-old Jason Kidd.

When he became a member of the Hornets this summer, though, Mason risked being referred to by his fresh-faced teammates as “Pops,” or at the very least, “Uncle Roger.” The Washington, D.C., native is at least five years older than every other Hornet (excluding 30-year-old Hakim Warrick) and has appeared in more NBA playoff games (24) than anyone on an extremely youthful New Orleans roster.

How long has Mason been around professional basketball? One of his teammates with the Chicago Bulls was Scottie Pippen.

At Mason’s previous NBA stops, elder teammates including Pippen, Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen helped guide the 2002 second-round pick through adversity and some of the challenging aspects of adjusting to life as a pro. Mason did not gain a permanent foothold in the league until 2006-07, when he was a key reserve for his hometown Washington Wizards. A decade after debuting in the NBA, Mason now wants to return the favor.

“I followed (Pippen) around everywhere,” Mason remembered. “Before practice, working early in the morning, after practice. I learned a lot from him and guys like Duncan and Bruce Bowen. I wanted to take as much from those guys as I could. Now that I’m in their position, I’m going to share the same things with Austin (Rivers), Eric (Gordon) and Anthony (Davis). It’s helped me last 10 years in the NBA.”

As you might imagine, however, Mason hasn’t remained in demand by teams this long based on intangibles alone. A career 38 percent three-point shooter, Mason has always been regarded as a dangerous perimeter threat off the bench.

“I’ve been matched up against him a few times. He’s a big-time shooter,” assessed the 23-year-old Gordon, who like Mason primarily plays shooting guard. “He runs off a lot of screens. We can definitely use him, because he’s deadly around the three-point area.”