Monday, October 13, 2008

Express News: Mason rebounds after slow start

Jeff McDonald - Express-News

HOUSTON — Two quarters into his first preseason game in a Spurs uniform, Roger Mason Jr. felt a little lost.

It wasn't just that he was thinking too much.

“I was thinking about not trying to think too much,” Mason said.

Mason, a 6-foot-5 guard signed away from Washington in the offseason to replace Brent Barry and now needed to pick up some scoring slack with Manu Ginobili out, missed all four of his first-half shots in the Spurs' 85-78 loss to Houston.

A halftime powwow with coach Gregg Popovich set his mind right. In the first half, Mason said he spent too much time worried about being in the right place at the right time.

“In the second half, Pop told me to just go out and play,” Mason said.

The results weren't groundbreaking, but they were encouraging. Mason made two of his four field goals in the third quarter, scoring his only four points of the game.

More than that, he just looked more at home in his new No. 8 Spurs jersey after intermission. There was a reason for that.

“The second half, I felt much more comfortable,” Mason said. “I just played more off instinct.”

Barry likes Spurs' chances: Barry hasn't been in Rockets red for very long, so his opinion of his former team still carries some weight.

It should please his erstwhile teammates to know Barry believes the Spurs will be competitive to start the season, even with Ginobili expected to be sidelined until December while recovering from ankle surgery.

“A lot of teams are thinking the good news is that Manu is out for a month and a half,” Barry said. “Well the bad news is he's going to be back in a month and a half. He's going to have a month and a half of rest, and a few hard weeks of conditioning, and he's going to be fresh for most of the season.”

Knowing all he knows about the Spurs, Barry says he will be shocked if Popovich doesn't find a way to keep his team's head above water while Ginobili is out.

“There's no way with coach Pop and Tony (Parker) and Tim (Duncan) and the experience that squad has that they're going to find themselves in a hole they can't get out of,” Barry said. “It would be ridiculous to think that.”

Bring in the vets: Tonight's exhibition against New Orleans at the AT&T Center should feature an appearance by a few of the more recognizable Spurs.

Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley all sat out the team's loss to Houston. Popovich says at least some of those veterans will play against the Hornets, though he's not quite sure who or for how long.

Injured pair closer to action: Popovich said he expects injured forward Kurt Thomas (strained hamstring) and injured guard Salim Stoudamire (strained groin) to return to return to practice “in a week at the most.”

Thomas arrived at training camp last week hobbled, while Stoudamire suffered his injury on the first day of workouts and hasn't practiced since.

The timing is particularly bad for Stoudamire, who must first make the team before he receives a fully guaranteed contract.

Popovich says if Stoudamire does indeed get back to practice next week, he would still have plenty of time to earn his spot.

“There are four or five games after these two, and another three weeks of practice,” Popovich said. “So he'll still have time to show us what he can do.”
On the other hand, Mason's time on the floor wasn't quite as productive, but he's obviously going through the hurdles that come with the Spurs' learning curve. Having to learn the most complex system in the league and filling the shoes of one Manu Ginobili has to come with a lot of pressure. Hopefully, Mason will come to find his place sooner before later, because this team needs him early in the season.

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