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A sad, but necessary farewell

As many of you know, I interned last summer at Comcast SportsNet.  My main job was to be their Blog Show intern, but I had the same experience other interns did, in that I logged tape, helped to cut highlight packages and did some field work.

During my time there, I met exactly one Wizard.  It was Roger Mason.

It was actually pretty random.  He apparently runs a basketball camp down at George Washington over the summer, and we were shooting some puff piece about it while also hoping to get him to comment on his free agent status at the time.  Initially, it didn't seem like one of Mason's finest moments.  When we arrived, there were several kids randomly shooting around with almost no supervision.  Mason was nowhere to be found.  We were told he'd arrive any minute. 

A minute passed, then another, then several more.  Finally, an hour and a half later, Mason showed up with a sheepish look on his face.  He quickly came over to our crew, and I figured the interview would happen right away.

Instead, Mason and my producer chatted for a good 10-15 minutes off camera, talking about things that had nothing to do with basketball.  Events they both attended, job complaints, etc.  Throughout the exchange, save for the beginning, my producer was doing most of the talking.  Mason stood there, listening attentively, but not talking much.  He was so genuine off-camera.  I never really got a chance to jump in, but honestly, I didn't want to.  It was so intriguing watching an athlete be so quiet and unassuming when the cameras weren't on.

It's that quality that made Roger Mason an easy guy to support.  He never got in trouble, never complained about his role and played the same way no matter how many minutes he received.  He could be counted on to start and play a lot of minutes, but on nights we didn't need him, he could still be of some use.  He improved his game so incredibly from year to year that I was often shocked at what I was seeing.  I remember how skinny his arms looked when I saw him that summer, yet those arms were still good enough to launch from deep and handle the ball solidly.

As a person, I'll miss him.  I realize why all the coaches and beat writers love him.

Yet I'm also happy about this development, because I was worried that the organization would value his character over the needs of the team.  Next year, and in the years to follow, we won't need Roger Mason's services.  Gilbert Arenas should return, Antonio Daniels is there to back him up, and Nick Young is the shooting guard of the future.  Meanwhile, fragile Caron Butler had no backup and plenty of solid options were available to fill that hole for the remaining money the Wizards had under the luxury tax.  To spend that money on a fifth guardeven one with as high a character as Mason'swould have shown where the organization's true motives lied. 

Luckily, we won't have that chance, as the Spurs scooped him up for 7.5 million over the next two years.  As it turns out, Mason's annual salary is for more than we could have afforded anyway. 

And that's great for him.  It's only fitting that Mason goes to a classy organization like San Antonio's.  He turned down a similar offer from the Spurs last summer because he felt he could make more if he had a good season, even though he was well behind Arenas, Daniels and Stevenson on the depth chart and had no guarantee to even return to the Wizards.  In the end, he got his chance, made the most of it, and will now rake home a lot more dough than he would have received last season.  He deserves it, and I'm overjoyed to see him get his chance to make a difference on a real contender.  San Antonio will definitely put him to good use spotting up behind the three-point line.

But the Wizards also deserve this chance to use his money to sign someone to fill Mason's spot in the rotation.  That's why Gilbert left the money he did on the table.  Now, the Wizards have no choice but to use it on someone else.  Someone that will help this team far more than Roger Mason possibly could have.

Goodbye, Potomac Rainmaker.  I'll always cheer you on.