Roger Mason is Enjoying Prime Time in San Antonio
With a dagger three-pointer, Roger Mason Jr. said goodbye to Phoenix's dream of a Christmas miracle and hello to the NBA world.
Certainly, with all the offseason NBA moves that take place year in and year out, it is easy to overlook Mason's move to the San Antonio Spurs, but the former Virginia Cavalier standout is making himself hard to ignore.
Roger Mason's journey in the NBA has been far from an easy path. He left Virginia after a successful junior campaign that ended in a last-minute loss to Gonzaga in the 2001 NCAA tournament.
Mason probably should have stayed that extra year to work on his game but the allure of the NBA was calling. His agent was convinced he would be a late first-round pick in the upcoming draft and so Mason took the plunge.
Ironically, so did Virginia, without a proven point guard the Cavaliers went into a tailspin that coach Pete Gillen was really never able to recover from.
As for Mason, he fell to the murky waters of the second round of the draft, selected by the Chicago Bulls.
Don't say he did it for the money. Mason Jr. has mentioned more than once in interviews that if he were not a basketball player, he would probably be a surgeon like his father was, before his untimely death from kidney disease when his son was only 11 years old.
Hmmm...doctor or NBA baller is not usually the career day dilemma most young men face after college.
Well it turned out to be prophetic, because Mason was going to spend the next few years of his life in waiting rooms as opposed to hardwood courts.
Being a rookie in the NBA is hard enough, but adding to the insult of being demoted to the second round, Mason suffered a shoulder injury which cost him the first 55 games of the season.
When he did recover, Mason had a front row seat at the bench he rarely left. Mason averaged just over six minutes a game and less than two points per contest.
For the next two years, Mason was in Toronto, once again dealing with limited playing time and limited health. Three times Mason missed significant amounts of time with injuries and it finally forced the Raptors to cut ties with him.
Mason, dejected and rejected, went the only place he could: Greece.
As a member of Olympiakos, Mason began to get healthier, which allowed him the confidence and the training to finally get his game to the next level.
Mason had always been a pure shooter, still holding the school record for highest career free-throw percentage, but now he was drilling three-pointers with precision and learning the skills of point guard, a job he had only inherited his final year in college.
After a couple of years overseas, Roger Mason Jr. got the opportunity he had wanted, a chance to come home.
In 2006, Mason was signed by the Washington Wizards, miles from home with his family and friends. Still, success was not exactly within reach.
Mason's career high after three years in the NBA to this point was 18 points against the Nets and yet he seemed very content with life. His three-point scoring average did not frustrate him as much as it did in the past.
He had grown to accept the fact that at Washington he may get an opportunity. That offseason, he turned down offers from other teams because he did not want to just sit on a bench and collect a check.
He was comfortable in Washington, and the Wizards like having a local product that fans could cheer for. He was growing under coach Eddie Jordan; he just needed the chance to prove it.
Well when Gilbert Arenas went down in 2007, Mason was given his biggest opportunity to date and this time he was not going to disappoint.
Mason was an incredible spark for Washington, a team that could have easily folded after all the injuries they were suffering from last season.
If you don't believe it, would you care to look at this team's success?
Mason ended the year with a 9.1 scoring average, registering double figures in 35 contests and ranking in the top 40 in three-pointers and three-point percentage.
Mason was also playing big in tough situations, scoring 18 against Cleveland in the first round practically lifting his team to victory in an elimination game.
It had been a long road but Roger Mason Jr. was finally watching his dream come true...Even if it was a bit deferred.
This offseason, the San Antonio Spurs came calling. They had actually been looking at Mason beforehand, but after his breakout season, they knew Mason was going to be doing more than just handing out towels to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli.
Once again, fortune was on Mason's side.
Injuries to Ginobli and Parker, once again gave Mason an opportunity and he has only started out the season with nearly 13 points and four rebounds per game.
Mason has 67 three pointers this year (before tonight's dagger), which is fourth best in the NBA, alongside the third best percentage from downtown.
That efficiency is something that Greg Popovich can be proud of and something that can make believers out of his new teammates.
This year, the big stars of the Lone Star state have been mentioning the only thing keeping Mason from being a big-time player is confidence. Often they have to tell him to shoot more and not less, a rare saying in the NBA.
Well a big three-pointer on Christmas on the road against the Phoenix Suns should show everybody that Roger Mason Jr. is more than confident enough to help the Spurs once again try to make a deep run in the playoffs.
So take note, rest of the NBA, the Spurs are back!
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