- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2012

When his phone rang late Saturday night, Shelvin Mack had no idea it would be from the team that let him go just before training camp, the Washington Wizards.

“They wanted to know where my head was and asked me if I would like to come back to the organization,” Mack said in an interview Monday.

Mack didn’t hesitate.

“I said, ‘Sure, I’m grateful for the opportunity to come back,’” Mack said.

Mack, 22, was selected by the Wizards with the 34th pick in the 2011 draft. He spent last season as the primary backup to John Wall, averaging 3.6 points, 2.0 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 12.2 minutes per game, but his struggles during the summer league made the team decide to look elsewhere to fill the position.

Mack was released by the Wizards after training camp, as the team chose to keep A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo. Pargo was later released and replaced by Shaun Livingston, who was let go on Saturday, along with center Earl Barron.

“Things happen for a reason,” Mack said. “They gave me another opportunity, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”

Mack, who will sign a nonguaranteed contract, returned to Washington on Monday and is expected to participate in Tuesday’s practice. Since his release from the Wizards, Mack had been playing in the NBA Development League for the Maine Red Claws, for whom he was averaging 20.2 points, 7.1 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game.

Mack believes his experience will serve him well and has prepared him to run an NBA offense better this time.

“When I was with the Wizards, I was playing maybe 10 minutes a game,” Mack said. “Now I’m playing 40-plus minutes and I think my game has improved tremendously. I’m getting more reps and I’m able to work on my game some more, stuff I needed to work on.”

The obvious advantage to having Mack back on the team is that he’s familiar with coach Randy Wittman’s system. With Wall out for an undetermined length of time with a stress injury to his left knee, Price sidelined with a broken hand, and Pargo and Livingston unable to get the job done, Wittman has had to turn to Jordan Crawford to handle the load at point guard.

But Crawford, a natural shooting guard, has handled the transition with mixed results. The team’s rash of injuries has placed the burden of being the No. 1 scoring option squarely on Crawford’s shoulders, making him just as likely to look for his own shot as he is to set up his teammates.

With Mack in the backcourt, Crawford can slide back to his natural two-guard spot, and the Wizards can get the kind of playmaking point guard they need. Mack acknowledged he hasn’t been keeping up with the Wizards that much and that being cut caught him off guard.

“I was a little surprised when it happened and a little upset,” Mack said. “I think everyone would be a little upset at getting released. But I realized I had to move on and keep a positive attitude.”

It’s one of the things Mack is known for, being unfailingly upbeat no matter the situation.

Although he’s happy to return and leave the D-League behind, he understands that he’s being asked to run a 3-22 team. But he couldn’t be happier about it.

“I was a little surprised when I heard from the Wizards,” Mack said. “But it’s a great Christmas present.”

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