30Q asks the important questions about the Kings all through September.
Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee did the heavy lifting in getting Paul Westphal to explain the signing of Desmond Mason to a one-year, partially guaranteed deal. (The move, in the fashion it's defended by the coach, seems to be Westphal-driven. That's the feeling I get talked to others, as well.) Since Mason is now a King, it seems appropriate to ask a question about him.
Desmond Mason? Really?
"The biggest question is, 'Are we going to see the Desmond Mason of three years ago, or are we going to see somebody who really can't play anymore?' " Westphal said.
This is a trick question: the Desmond Mason of three years ago really couldn't play anymore. He shot a True Shooting percentage of .493 three years ago. On last year's 17-win Kings team, that would have only beaten Donte Greene, who happens to be 21 years old and full of potential, not 32 years old and coming off a major knee injury. That was the Desmond Mason of three years ago: terrible. So I'm not too excited about getting Desmond Mason of three years, even though the idea we could be so fortunate to get the Desmond Mason of three years is pretty danged optimistic, considering players tend to get worse and not better as they enter their thirties.
"It's kind of a no-lose situation. If he has recovered from the injury, he could help anybody."
I disagree that it's a "no-lose situation" -- that roster spot could be going to a younger player, a back-up center, a fan favorite, Chris Bosh's best friend from third grade, a younger player, Tom Ziller or a younger player. If you were hoping for one of those guys, and instead get Desmond Mason, well that seems to be a loss. And if we get to, oh, October 10 and figure out Desmond Mason really can't play anymore, well, then, you ain't ever getting those preseason minutes and training camp reps back. Or the money you're paying him to show up to training camp.
And again, Desmond Mason was not able to help anybody before his injury. He hasn't been able to help anybody since 2004-05. Five years ago. Five. Years. Ago.
"The message I want to send to the young players and probably to the loyal fans, as well, is that nobody is given playing time."
Having 13 players on your roster, apparently, does not guarantee that you can bench lazy players. It takes 14 players -- one of them being 32 years old -- to really put the screws of pressure on the kids. Before signing Desmond Mason, there was the chance Donte Greene or Omri Casspi might goof off in practice, unworried about the possibility of losing their invisible spot in the rotation because there isn't a 32-year-old breathing down their necks. NO MORE. Desmond Mason will prevent further popcorn shenanigans!
I am a loyal fan. I want to see Greene and Casspi (and Tyreke Evans) play. I'm not a coach, but I think there are ways to motivate young players without threatening them with a terrible, old player coming off knee surgery. Try cupcakes! Little children such Greene and Casspi loves cupcakes.
"We are going into this season trying to win as many games as we can and develop the players to the point where they can show improvement."
Amick left out the second part of this quote: "And really, what says 'we're trying to win as many games as we can and develop the players to the point where they can show improvement' more than signing a 32-year-old whose only claim to basketball excellence was his dunking skills eight years ago."
"Best-case scenario, we add a defensive presence to the two and three positions that I don't think we have anywhere else."
Oh no ...
"I think he's the kind of guy that you put on the other team's best scorer."
Oh god no.
Here are Mason's defensive ratings over the last five seasons: 113, 109, 109, 114, 111. League average hovers around 106 (though it varies by year). This means, by defensive rating, teams with Mason on the court give up 7, 3, 3, 8 and 5 more points than the average defender per 100 possessions. This is roughly comparable with Kevin Martin (though Martin's 2008-09 117 DRtg is a bit extreme). Kevin Martin is not known as an incredible defender.
Mason averages 0.8 steals per 36 minutes for his career. He has nearly been eclipsed by 6'6, four-year veteran Francisco Garcia in total career blocks. Mason played most of his minutes at shooting guard last season with OKC. According to 82games.com, pro-rated over 48 minutes opposing two-guards (who one would assume Mason was defending) outscored Dez 21-12. The opponents shot 51% to Mason's 41%. Mason turned it over 2.6 times to their 1.8 times. I'm sorry, but that is not good defense by the metrics.
I don't like to be pessimistic, but we are seeing the beginning of the justification for why Desmond Mason is on the court in the closing minutes of a tight game in February while Donte Greene waves a towel and Omri Casspi wishes he had a cupcake on the bench. This is not good, people.