Here’s to hoping Frank Mason III forever feels disrespected.
Mason begins almost every postgame interview session by asking rhetorically, “You want to talk to me?”
Yes, please don’t change.
The Kings have spent the first month of the season in search of their on-court conscience, the player who won’t back down and wouldn’t even know how to. The King whose intensity never turns off, the player who has an edge before tipoff.
In short, the heart and soul of the team.
They have him in their 5-foot-11 rookie from Kansas, who became a part of the regular rotation four games ago. Mason’s mindset has been built on years of disrespect and every time he steps on the court, Mason brings that disrespect with him.
The Kings have had a problem of playing in cruise control too often, but Mason seems incapable of doing that. He cannot turn off his tenacity.
“He’s our bulldog man,” said Garrett Temple. “Frank, he’s got heart, man, so much heart. He’s a real laid-back cat, but he’s got that in him. You can see that when’s he’s playing, he’s picking up fullcourt and the older guys had been telling him get in shape so you can play your game, defensively, create havoc.”
It was hard for Mason to watch the Kings sloth through games and play passive defense.
“Even if they didn’t need a tough guy to come off the bench that’s still who I am,” Mason said. “That’s what I bring to the team and I’ll continue to be that way and play that way forever.”
Mason’s “You want to talk to me?” attitude has been crafted over the years. Lightly recruited, he was headed to Towson before a failed class in high school forced him to go to prep school instead.
He didn’t start as a freshman at Kansas and even after winning multiple Player of the Year awards as a senior, Mason still slipped to the second round of the 2017 NBA draft and was taken 34th overall.
“Yeah, always,” said Mason of being slighted. “It’s been the same thing each and every level and the outcome has been different each and every level.”
By different, Mason means he exceeds the low expectations in front of him. We’re watching that happen now as Mason, the last of the Kings’ four draft picks, is proving to be the one with the biggest intangibles.
“His energy, his defensive energy, his toughness will rub off,” Temple said. “When guys see him pick up full court and play with a certain toughness that will rub off, that’s for sure.”
The Kings are 2-2 with Mason in the rotation. In Wednesday’s win over the Lakers, he was a nuisance on defense and a playmaker on offense, with seven assists.
Beyond statistics, Mason should stay on the court because the Kings need his toughness. Even if he’s not making shots, you don’t have to worry about him backing down.
“You have to play every possession with pride,” Mason said. “Take it personal when somebody scores on you, and that’s what I do.”
The Kings have to hope Mason never changes.