In a week where he could’ve been searching for a new team, Roger Mason Jr. looks set to continue his championship quest with the guard-thin Miami Heat.
Though it could’ve been a completely different story as the 10th year veteran’s minimum salary contract had a 5 p.m. (Eastern) deadline on Jan. 7 to be guaranteed for the rest of the season. And with teams looking to save money and possibly create roster spots for future additions, he appeared to be the most likely player to be cut.
Since Miami is being cautious with Dwyane Wade by resting him on back-to-to-backs due to his knees and Mario Chalmers out with a strained right Achilles, the Heat only have three guards (Mason, Ray Allen and Norris Cole) at full strength, thus enhancing the value of Roger Mason Jr.
He has been known as a bona fide “shooter” since his San Antonio days when he posted a career-high 42 percent shooting average from 3 point range during the 2008-09 season, but in order to make it in this versatile Miami Heat squad, he knew he had to be more than just a guy who camps out in the corners and wait for the ball to come to him. That’s why he opted to work with Justin Zormelo to tap into the “other” parts of his games.
“I took it to another level,” said Mason. “I really looked in the mirror and realized the last three or four years, I didn’t feel like I was using all of my abilities. So I went back to the lab and got to work on ball handling, pick-and-roll, reading defenses, studying a lot of film. I don’t think I’ve had a summer of work like this in a long time.”
Yet, even though he has some value for the Miami Heat, it is difficult to quantify his worth through the 19 games this season. He is currently averaging a mere 3.5 points, while shooting 34 percent from 3 point range and 36.7 percent overall in 11.6 minutes per game.
Then again this is a Miami Heat team that doesn’t base the value of a player solely on statistics. Take Shane Battier for example; he sees nearly twice the amount of game time Roger Mason Jr. does but his scoring is much better( 4.4 points to 3.5 for Mason), and the shooting percentages are identical (Battier – 35.5 percent, Mason – 34.1 percent). Nonetheless, Battier is considered a quintessential part of the organization because of qualities such as his basketball I.Q and savvies, in addition to his versatility.
And despite not blowing the doors off the hinges in 2013-14, Coach Erik Spoelstra holds Mason in high regard, stating that: “It’s not easy to find guys like that, guys that will embrace that role, that are only about winning, only about the team, will do all the things behind the scenes and then be ready when you need him. He has a resume, he feels comfortable in those situations and he can produce for you. It is a unique role. It is not for everybody. Roger has embraced it and it fits.”
Teammate Chris Bosh also echoed his coach’s words, praising the shooting guard for his strong work ethic and professionalism even though he knows that at times he won’t be in games. “He’s going to be able to help us in some areas that we need to fill later on,” said the Heat forward, “I think his time is coming pretty soon. He’s working hard.”
Ultimately, it was the dedication to expand his game that has made Roger Mason Jr. an asset in South Beach and so far it has him on track to compete for an NBA title.