Spurs' Hurt Locker: Tony Parker's Injury Affords Roger Mason a Do-Over

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IMarch 8, 2010

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 17:  Roger Mason #8 of the San Antonio Spurs dribbles the ball downcourt against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 17, 2009 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Roger Mason stopped behind the arc and delivered his fourth game-clinching dagger in a nationally televised game against the defending champion Boston Celtics.

As he stepped into the shot, it looked as if Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford had unearthed the next Robert Horry.

One month later, Manu Ginobili's season ended, and the Spurs needed Mason to be more than a sometimes heroic spot-up shooter.

When the playoffs arrived, he could not oblige.

Mason's agent Mark Bartelstein told the San Antonio Express-News weeks ago his client would be open to a trade, if it resulted in more playing time for the shooting guard.

His flaw is as common as traffic accidents on busy interstate highways.

All players with a competitive spark would rather sweat on the court than ride the pine. He had been victimized by his own shortcomings, and this season, he was paying the hefty price.

Mason became an outstanding support man, but he played too much for his own good. Defenses uncovered his limitations and locked in, leaving Tim Duncan and his wobbly knees to fight single coverage.

The Spurs' guard was granted his wish this week but not in the way he would have liked. He will take the Quicken Loans Arena floor tonight with a new team ready to give him the minutes he wants.

San Antonio's pro hoops squad will not be the same without Tony Parker.

The former Finals MVP, who torched the Cavaliers in the 2007 championship series, will miss the rest of the regular season with a broken bone in his right hand.

He suffered a fracture to his fourth metacarpal in a loose-ball scrum Saturday night in Memphis.

The Hurt Locker , which won best picture honors at Sunday night's Academy Awards, would be an apt title for a documentary about Paker's injury-laden season.

He has also battled plantar fasciitis, two ankle sprains, a hip flexor, and food poisoning. Matt Bonner missed four weeks with the same hand injury, and it took him several more weeks to regain his shooting touch.

Parker played for the French national team when he should have rested, and he appears willing to admit as much.

George Hill, Manu Ginobili, and Richard Jefferson must band together to account for the loss of Parker.

No player, however, will get a bigger shot at redemption than Mason.

Days after Bartelstein said Mason wanted to live in San Antonio after his eventual retirement, the agent offered up a quote that sounded like a trade request.

The 28-year-old guard will become an unrestricted free agent this summer along with Ginobili. That alone is reason enough to expect an uptick in production.

Mason cannot impersonate an All-Star on his best nights, but he can stroke it from long range and slash to the basket. His defense has also improved.

If the Spurs hope to garner a top-four seed and home court advantage in the first round, Popovich will need Mason to price himself out of a return to San Antonio next season.

A double digit number of franchises have cleared cap space in hopes of landing a star this summer. Just as one of the teams that strikes out on LeBron James will throw money at Ginobili, at least one basketball executive will overvalue Mason.

With Parker out, he will play some point guard, and his minutes will climb as they did last year.

The Spurs need different results, and a healthy Ginobili and Duncan, along with a productive Jefferson and Antonio McDyess, could help Mason maximize his production.

He scored eight points in Saturday's win. His expanded role continues when the Spurs visit the team with the league's best record.

James may sit out his second consecutive game. The Express-News reported Ginobili will start at off guard alongside Hill.

Those two newsworthy items do not change Mason's importance.

If San Antonio can find a way to best Cleveland, it faces a number of cupcake opponents in the coming week.

Beat the Cavs and the Spurs could put together a double-digit win streak. Enveloped in a murderous March, the squad needs that kind of boost.

The Spurs have all but ceded the Southwest Division to the Dallas Mavericks. Winning it last year didn't work out as planned—for San Antonio or Mason.

After a dismal showing in a five-game, first-round ouster, he urned for a do-over.

Weeks ago, he pined for more minutes and an increased role—a trade.

With Parker sidelined, he'll get his wish.


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