The release of Roger Mason Jr. by the Raptors yesterday led to immediate speculation that a huge Vince Carter trade was brewing, or that the club was ready to sign a free-agent big man. Those things still may be in the offing, despite the fact New York Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas -- Carter's most persistent suitor -- has gone on a trip for a few days.
WANTS TO PLAY
But ultimately, the jettisoning of Mason amounted to a difference of opinion: Mason wanted to play, but the Raptors wanted to keep him on the injured list.
"I was waiting over the past couple of weeks, to see if they would take me off the injured list," Mason said yesterday. "When it became obvious that I just wasn't going to get any playing time, my agent asked the Raptors to let me go to see if I can find a job elsewhere."
The negotiations toward Mason's release were said to be completely cordial.
"He felt like he wasn't getting an opportunity to play," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "I understand he's a young guy and if there are some teams that are going to give him an opportunity to play, we owe it to Roger so he can do that. We're not trying to hold anybody back or stymie anybody's career."
Mason, 24, left the team for a couple of days in early November for what the Raptors described as "personal reasons." He was placed on the injured list immediately upon rejoining the club, officially because of a sprained left ankle that had not been in obvious evidence before he was granted his excused absence.
The 6-foot-5 Mason is a native of Washington, D.C., who attended the University of Virginia. He was selected in the second round of the NBA draft, 31st overall, by the Chicago Bulls in 2002.
Mason was traded to the Raptors from the Bulls exactly one year ago yesterday, for Rick Brunson.
Mason did not play a single minute for the Raptors this season. Last season he averaged 3.7 points and 1.0 assists in 26 games with Chicago and Toronto.
Mason was signed only through to the end of this season, and his contract was not fully guaranteed.
"Out of respect for Roger, we feel it's best in his interests to release him at this time," Raptors general manager Rob Babcock said. "The timing, from your perspective, might be questionable, but really this is all for Roger."