- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Washington Wizards lost backup guard Roger Mason Jr. in free agency when he signed a two-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

Mason, the team’s only remaining free agent, is coming off of a career year in which he averaged 9.1 points and shot a team-high 39.8 percent from 3-point range. The Wizards had hoped to re-sign Mason but had not extended him an offer as of Wednesday afternoon.

Also on Wednesday, the Wizards announced the signing of rookie center JaVale McGee - taken 18th overall in last month’s NBA Draft. The Nevada product will earn roughly $1.39 million the next two seasons, and the team has an option for each of the next two years.

Mason, a former Good Counsel and Virginia player, signed with the Spurs because they offered him both a more lucrative deal and a better chance of increased playing time. Mason will receive $7.3 million over two years, according to league sources.

Mason, who will enter his fifth season in the NBA, chose to sign the short deal because he believes the increased playing time with the Spurs will give him a better chance to improve and in turn increase his future worth.

“I feel like I have a lot more room to grow as a player, so I signed for two years,” Mason said in a phone interview Wednesday evening. “So I’ll be 29 when this deal is up and [reaching my prime].”

Mason already displayed significant growth in the past season. A journeyman his first two seasons in the league and then out of the NBA in 2005, Mason signed a one-year deal in 2006 with the Wizards but saw limited action and averaged just 2.7 points.

Last summer, Mason turned down a multiple-year offer from the Spurs to re-sign with the Wizards for $770,610, believing he could benefit from continuity.

Mason saw increased playing time when Arenas missed 69 games with knee surgery. And when Antonio Daniels missed time with injuries of his own, Mason stepped in as a starter and averaged 17.4 points while shooting 43.1 percent from 3-point range.

The Spurs were one of 10 teams interested in Mason, with the Wizards and the Miami Heat as the other more serious potential suitors, Mason said.

Mason impressed the Spurs with his ability to play both point and shooting guard and his strength as a perimeter defender.

“It’s been humbling, the attention I’ve gotten in free agency,” Mason said. “San Antonio is a championship-caliber team. It seems like they’re in the finals every other year, so I’m proud to be a part of that. I know the type of people down there and what they expect. So I expect to go down there, work hard and earn whatever comes to me.”

Mason, meanwhile, expressed gratitude for the Wizards for giving him an opportunity the last two seasons.

“It’s bittersweet leaving Washington,” Mason said. “My hometown team gave me the chance to get back into the league and grow. So I’ll always be appreciative to coach Eddie Jordan and [Wizards president] Ernie Grunfeld.”



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