Roger Mason Jr. didn’t think that his second stint with his hometown Wizards was going to come to an end once the season ended. He had hoped to return to play for a coach who had finally given him an opportunity to contribute and with a group of young players still in need of guidance to move beyond being repeat lottery offenders.
But with the Wizards drafting Bradley Beal and adding a veteran presence with the acquisitions of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, Mason had to consider other options during free agency. After attracting attention from the Wizards, New Orleans, Chicago, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers, among others, Mason eventually settled on the Hornets. He agreed to a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum on Wednesday, effectively going from one former No. 1 pick from Kentucky (John Wall) to another (Anthony Davis).
“I’m excited. They told me from the start that they wanted me. They stayed in touch. They have a clear role for me, as far as me not just being a veteran leader, but a guy that can contribute on the court,” Mason said in a telephone interview. “I just love the direction the franchise is going. So I’m looking forward to heading down there.”
Mason, 31, will be surrounded by some familiar faces in New Orleans, having already worked with Hornets General Manager Dell Demps while the two were in San Antonio and with assistant general manager Tim Connelly, the former director of player personnel for the Wizards. He has also spoken with Hornets Coach Monty Williams, a District native, several times during the recruiting process.
After finishing one game better than the Wizards in their first season after dealing Chris Paul, the Hornets have completely remade their team this offseason. They drafted Davis and Austin Rivers last June, re-signed Eric Gordon and traded Okafor and Ariza to the Wizards and Jarrett Jack to Golden State. Mason doesn’t necessarily believe he is joining another rebuilding situation.
“You’ve got to remember, last year, Eric Gordon was hurt the whole year. He’s an all-star type of player. You’ve got Anthony Davis, who’s shown flashes during the Olympics, that he’s going to be a very, very solid player this year. And a lot of young guys that can play,” Mason said. “It’s an exciting team and I think it’s a great opportunity for me, to give some knowledge that I’ve learned and also contribute on the court.”
Mason actually had one of his best games of the season in New Orleans, where he scored a season-high 19 points and helped the Wizards defeat the Hornets, 99-89. He also fractured his left index finger in the win and continued to play 18 more games before electing to have surgery.
“I did have a good game down there and the other team that it came down to, the Lakers, I had a good game against them, too,” he said. “I like where New Orleans is going. I like where my role will be…I think this will be a good opportunity to prove my worth and then we’ll see what happens next summer. It’s going to be an opportunity to get my value up even more.”
Mason averaged 7.9 points and shot 42.5 percent from the floor in the final 31 games, as Coach Randy Wittman gave him more of an opportunity to play. Uncertain about what to expect in Washington next season, Mason felt it was time to move on – again.
“I was interested in continuing my career here,” said Mason, who also played with the Wizards from 2006-08 before signing in San Antonio. “But I just think that right now, the opportunity for me is a little stronger in New Orleans. I wish the team the best. I talked to John and I’ll hit the rest of the guys, because I built a very strong relationship with the young core, but you know, it’s a business and you’ve got to move on.”Yahoo! Sports was first to report the signing.
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