I caught up with Desmond Mason this afternoon to get his reaction to yesterday’s trade. He used the word excited 13 times during our 15-minute conversation. Trust me. I counted. I’ll have a story on Mason’s reaction in Friday’s editions of The Oklahoman, but I wanted to post an excerpt from our conversation here in the meantime.
Among the topics, Mason talked about how he found out he’d been dealt, teaming with Kevin Durant and his memories during his two-year stint in OKC with the Hornets. Mason also discussed his expectations for the team next season and the possibility of finishing his career in OKC. We also had a funny exchange about the mysterious team name near the end of our conversation.
Q: What was your initial reaction to the trade?
A: Coming back to Oklahoma City, that was a good thing for me. I enjoyed my last couple of years there. I enjoyed college there. But the trade kind of caught me off guard. But I’ve been through it a couple of times now so you learn to deal with it accordingly. So I’m excited about going back… I’m excited about getting back and trying to put my face on that franchise in Oklahoma City and in that community and be a part of something special and building that team into something special.
Q: How did you find out about it? I hear you were on a plane when the deal went down.
A: I was flying. I found out when I got off the plane and cut my phone on and had about 15 text messages and about 10 or 11 messages. That’s the way I found out…. When I looked at it and saw Oklahoma City I was a little relieved because it’s a place that we’re comfortable with and a place that we enjoy being and a place that we have history in. So this move is easier for us.
Q: You said you were caught off guard by the trade. But did you suspect something might be in the works when the team selected Joe Alexander and acquired Richard Jefferson?
A: When they drafted Joe Alexander, I knew he was kind of a tweener player. And then when they traded for Richard I said, ‘OK. I guess they feel like that’s the upgrade for that position.’ At the end of the day I knew at some point something was going to happen. What? I’m wasn’t sure, because I’ve seen coach Skiles playing (Andres) Nocioni at the four and I’ve seen him play all kinds of lineups. So I didn’t really know exactly what was going to happen. But I had already prepped myself that there was the potential of something happening.
Q: What are your thoughts about teaming with Kevin Durant?
A: I think it’s going to be a good opportunity for him to learn from some veteran guys and for us to be around such an extraordinary young talent. The kid is good. I think everybody knows that. He’s very talented. He seems like he’s got his head on his shoulders.
Q: What are your favorite memories of the time you spent here with the Hornets?
A: Just the fans in general, because they really accepted and embraced the Hornets and how they supported the Hornets every night. I mean, we weren’t making the playoffs but they were pumped up and screaming loud. In the NBA, you go to a city and you have a couple of bad possessions and you will get booed out of the gym in a lot of arenas. And to me it felt like a college atmosphere where you’re kind of messing up a little bit, maybe you’re dropping the ball on defense or you turn it over a couple of times, the fans started cheering trying to get you going again. And that’s something that I haven’t seen in my career as an NBA player. So that was refreshing to see that fan support and that’s kind of one of my fondest memories.
Q: Talk about your community involvement off the court. Do you expect to pick up where you left off when you left here?
A: No question. I’m already excited about it. I’ve had calls already from the people that I’ve worked with from a community standpoint when I was there last time. I got the calls yesterday and they’re ready to go right back into some of the same things that we were doing there the last time. I think my wife and I really want to get even more involved…I’ve already started putting wheels in motion of picking up where we left off. So we’re overall exited about coming back and being part of the whatever the name of the team is going to be. I don’t know what it is yet. Does anybody know?
DM: It’s reportedly Thunder.
Mason: OK. The Thunder then.
Q: What nickname do you like?
A: I don’t know. I haven’t heard what the options were. But my buddy sent me a text and he said Thunder a few times in the text, but I didn’t really understand what he was talking about. So now I guess that’s what he was talking about.
Q: Is it too early to start talking about how this franchise might be able to retain you past this season?
A: It wouldn’t bother me one bit to finish my career in Oklahoma City. I enjoy being there. We all know how negotiations go and how free agency goes, but Oklahoma City has a special place in my heart. For me, that would kind of be like a fairytale story to finish where I played college at, being around people that I love, being close to home, my wife went to college there and our daughter will be able to experience what we experienced there growing as young adults. It’s definitely early to talk about the future from a figures standpoint, but I would definitely entertain the offer to finish my career in Oklahoma City.