Roger Mason Jr.’s season may have ended when he elected to undergo surgery to repair a fractured left index finger, but his relationship with the Wizards continued. Mason was waived to make room for the Wizards to sign Morris Almond with 12 days left in the season, but he still was a presence on the bench at home games, encouraging his teammates in a sport jacket as sort of the 16th man.
“That was more of a technicality,” Mason said of his official status the final two weeks of the regular season. Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld “told me, ‘This is your team. You’re still a part of it.’ They just needed a spot. I took him for his word that he wanted me here.”
Mason would like to have his time extended with his hometown team for a while longer after finishing on a high note – despite the injury. Rarely used by Flip Saunders and early under Randy Wittman, Mason finally got a chance to contribute just before the all-star break and really found his groove after Nick Young was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers. He essentially had two seasons – one forgettable and one that proved that he deserved to earn more checks in the NBA.
In the Wizards’ first 31 games of the season, Mason averaged just 1.9 points and received 10 DNP-Coach’s Decisions. That was a sharp contrast to Mason’s final 31 games, when he averaged 7.9 points, shot 43.1 percent from the floor – including 42.5 percent from three-point range – and reached double figures in scoring 13 times. He also had seven games with at least four three-pointers.
“Obviously, when I got my opportunity I was able to play well,” Mason said. “Our team played well.”
Mason was playing so well that he didn’t want to sit, even after breaking his finger in New Orleans on the day of the three-team trade that yielded Nene. He still had his best game of the season, scoring 19 points as the Wizards pulled out a 99-89 win over the Hornets and played 18 more games despite ligament damage in the finger as well.
He’s optimistic about continuing to play in Washington, where has spent three of his eight seasons in the NBA. But he also knows that a lot hinges on how the Wizards fare in Wednesday’s NBA draft lottery. The Wizards need perimeter help and the upcoming draft has several talented wing players, such as Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Florida’s Bradley Beal and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes.
“They said they want me back,” Mason said of the Wizards. “We don’t know what pick they have. We don’t know what’s going to happen with free agency. Ernie and Ted know that I’m from here. I want to be a part of this turnaround. I want to be a part of this process for beyond a year, so we’ll see what happens when free agency ends.”
Mason didn’t feel that the Wizards’ second-half push was a fluke and said the team would’ve been in the playoff push if it had begun the season with the team that finished. “No knock on anyone or anything, but when I first got here, it was kind of chaotic,” Mason said. “All the young players, people had so many agendas. But a tale of two seasons. by the end of year, it was almost like a different locker room, completely. This is a serious business. We’re all blessed and fortunate to be here and the entitlement that I felt this team had at the beginning of the year, I felt had gone to the side.”Watching the growth and maturity of the team as the season progressed gave him confidence about the team going forward. “I feel entrenched with this young group,” Mason said. “I feel like my leadership has been great. I’ve enjoyed, not the losing, but the process of seeing the young guys develop and I let them know that I’d like to be a part of that long term.”
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