Sometimes a fresh start can get a player on the path to where they hope to go.
While one Kings starter is seeking that elsewhere, another is hoping to get it with the only NBA team he’s known in his career.
Frank Mason III sees the California Classic and NBA Summer League in Las Vegas as his opportunity for that fresh start. The guard will enter his third year in the league with some question marks surrounding his position.
The Kings are widely considered to be in the market for a starting center, even though on Friday they issued a qualifying offer to Willie Cauley-Stein despite his camp asking the team not to, as well as a point guard to back up starter De’Aaron Fox.
That’s the position Mason plays.
Mason was named to the team’s summer league roster Friday. Speaking with the media hours later at Golden 1 Center, he discussed what he’ll be focusing on when play tips off Monday.
“Everything,” he said. “Just being in better shape, stronger, more athletic, shooting the ball a lot better ... and, most importantly, winning everything I compete in.”
Mason made clear he wants to win, adding that he “can’t wait to get out there” for the three-day event hosted by his team for the second consecutive year.
He played well in the inaugural three-day event, averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals as the Kings went 1-2 in their first home summer tournament.
Mason received praise from Larry Lewis, who coached the Kings last summer.
“He’s got a lot of bulldog in him, and when he really, really wants to, you’ll see him just come up with the ball a few times,” Lewis told The Bee last July. “He’ll just take it and … he can be a little mean and really get after it defensively.”
Mason is excited to be able to play in the event again.
“I think it’s really cool,” he said. “The California Classic, for the city of Sacramento, is a big deal (especially) for the new draft picks. It gives our fans a chance to see them early and see what they can do. I know those guys are pretty excited.”
This summer will give Mason a chance to show the Kings’ new coaching staff his capabilities. A second-round draft pick out of Kansas in 2017, the NCAA national player of the year found cracking coach Dave Joerger’s rotation difficult this past season. Mason played just 38 games, down from 52 contests as a rookie, and only played 20 or more minutes six times during the team’s best campaign in 13 years.
Mason’s season high was 18 points, and that came in the second game, a 149-129 loss at New Orleans on Oct. 19.
Now that Luke Walton is leading the way, and with Jesse Mermuys coaching the team this summer, Mason is relishing the chance to help his team and connect with the new staff.
“Luke and his staff have been unbelievable so far,” Mason said. “I think all the guys get along with him pretty well, they communicate with us really good, that’s all we can ask for. I’m excited to learn from those guys and just be a part of everything.
“It feels like a whole new start for me. I’m excited to have the new coaches in here. I’ve really enjoyed them so far and, hopefully, it’ll only get better.”
He said he’s not actively tracking what the team will do when the free agency period officially opens at 3 p.m. Sunday. His goals are to improve his game and win.
“My job is to get better and focus on what I can control,” he said. “Other than that, it’s all business, so whatever happens happens. I just have to be ready and stay professional.”
With this being his third summer league, he’s taking an active role in helping mentor the younger guys coming in, including second-round draft picks Justin James (40th, Wyoming) and Kyle Guy (55th, Virginia). His advice for them?
“Just play their game,” Mason said. “Go out there and do the things they know they can do, but know that the team comes first, so, all personal goals aside, winning is the most important thing.”
Most of all, he wants to have fun and win games.
“Every time I step on the court it’s fun, no matter if it’s practice, summer league, a real game, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m always excited. In this league, every day is excitement and entertainment.”