Hornets Insider: Four Things to Know About the Roger Mason Signing
August 13, 2012
As eight-year NBA veteran Roger Mason weighed his options in free agency this summer, he eventually narrowed his possible destinations to two teams: the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets. While many fans and NBA observers might view choosing the championship-contending Lakers as a no-brainer, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard opted to sign with New Orleans, where a new era in team history has begun.
Why the Hornets? As is the case with many free agents, Mason weighed a lengthy list of factors before coming to a final decision. Here are four things to know about the Washington, D.C., area native’s desire to play in the Crescent City in 2012-13:
1) Comfort level with the organization – starting at the top.
From a distance, players in other NBA cities had viewed the Hornets’ ownership situation over the past two years with a degree of caution, partly because it was impossible to predict the franchise’s future. No one could be certain about who was going to purchase the team, or how that would impact potential changes to the roster and front office. With New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson officially taking over the Hornets in June, Mason said that concern has been erased.
“It’s really night and day,” Mason noted, comparing the team’s current outlook to the recent past. “There is a clear direction the franchise wants to go. Whenever a team is for sale, you don’t necessarily know its direction. But it’s very clear with Mr. Benson having been in the New Orleans community, and with his ownership of the Saints, (his purchase of the Hornets) makes a lot of sense.”
Mason also has a few significant ties to the New Orleans front office. The University of Virginia product knows current Hornets assistant general manager Tim Connelly well from his 2006-08 stint with Washington, where Connelly was a member of the Wizards’ basketball operations staff. Mason went on to play for the San Antonio Spurs for two seasons from 2008-10, the organization where Dell Demps worked prior to coming to New Orleans in July 2010.
Mason was not as familiar with Monty Williams as Connelly and Demps, but says Williams’ presence was also a major consideration.
“After talking to Coach Monty, I felt I had a great rapport with him, along with Dell and Tim,” Mason described. “I feel like it’s a place where I can get better as a player and learn under a great coach.”
2) The chance to potentially be a key contributor on the floor…
After playing over 1,500 minutes for three consecutive seasons from 2007-10 with the Wizards and Spurs, Mason logged 319 and 697 minutes the past two campaigns, respectively. The career 38.1 percent three-point shooter stressed that he was not given any assurances that he’ll have a more substantial on-court role in NOLA, but as was the case with the Lakers, the Hornets had a pressing need for a perimeter weapon. The Hornets and Lakers finished 22nd and 26th in the NBA in three-point percentage last season.
“Absolutely, that was one of the more important factors, for sure,” said Mason, who has made 511 career treys. “They had a need at backup shooting guard and for a guy who could knock down shots. I definitely saw that and wanted to come here.
“What I was looking for this offseason was a place where I could earn an opportunity. That’s all you can ask for – a chance to earn playing time. You don’t ever expect anything to be given to you.”
3) … and off the floor, as a mentor for the Hornets’ multitude of young players.
For the first time in Mason’s pro career, he will be the oldest and most-experienced player on an NBA roster. With only one other player in his 30s (Hakim Warrick, who just turned 30 on July 8), the Hornets will be one of the youngest teams in the NBA in 2012-13. The 31-year-old Mason, who has been a key leader in the NBA Players Association, chuckles when it’s mentioned that he’ll be the “graybeard” of the Hornets.
“It’s funny, because when I was with the Spurs only a couple years ago, I was one of the youngest guys on the team,” Mason recalled. “I’m looking forward to sharing the experiences I’ve had playing for championship teams like the Spurs and being around a guy like Tim Duncan. You can best believe I’m going to be talking to Anthony (Davis) about those same principles (of Duncan’s success). I want to have a positive impact on the floor and in the locker room.”
4) A major team-wide upgrade in talent.
Speaking of Davis, the June 28 addition of the No. 1 overall pick was just one of a handful of positive roster moves the Hornets have made this summer. Coming off an injury-riddled 21-45 season, New Orleans has landed a defensive presence (Davis), the NBA’s most prolific three-point shooter from 2011-12 (Ryan Anderson), along with re-signing a past USA Basketball participant (Eric Gordon).
“It’s a team that already has a great player in Eric Gordon, but also had a lot of other young talent,” Mason assessed.
With Anderson and Mason in the fold, New Orleans has a chance to become much more dangerous on the perimeter, where the Hornets ranked last in the NBA in total three-point makes (averaging just 3.9 per game).
“(Acquiring Anderson) was huge,” said Mason, who played in the same Southeast Division as Anderson in 2011-12. “Obviously he was Most Improved Player last season for a reason. We faced Orlando often, so I saw a lot of him. He made a lot of shots against us. It’s tough (for defenses) when they have to try to stop a pick-and-roll, and you have Anthony Davis rolling to the rim, then you have a guy like Anderson beyond the arc.”
Mason also looks forward to teaming with Davis, who has been impressive during his stints on the floor for Team USA at the Olympics.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s going to come into our league and be a force immediately with his shot-blocking,” Mason said. “His athleticism and mobility are off the chart. From what I understand, he’s also a worker. His future is bright if he continues to do that.”
Mason hopes the same will soon be said about his brand-new team.