Volume 90, Issue 89

Thursday, March 13, 1997

shoestrings


SPORTS
 

Charlotte Hornets' iron stinger


Courtesy of the Charlotte Hornets
MASON WITH THE ILL COMMUNICATION. Anthony Mason has raised his game to new heights in Charlotte.


By Nick Lewis
Gazette Staff

He's so tough his name may as well be his moniker.

Anthony Mason surprised many when he turned a Charlotte Hornet team that was meant to be dwelling in the basement into a legitimate championship contender.

For five years he bruised and battered anyone who dared step into the unfriendly home paint at Madison Square Garden as the iron man of a solid New York Knicks' defence. The Knicks repaid him by trading him to the Hornets for Larry Johnson. Mason is returning the favour the best way he knows – by leading the sting squad to a 40-22 record thus far.

Already having the best season of his career with 17.1 points per game, he is third in the league with 11.3 boards and is 21st with 5.8 assists – numbers far ahead of two seasons ago when he won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.

"The transition to Charlotte has been great," he said. "I got past all that hoopla and jealousy going on off the court and I started to have a great time.

"It's been big for my career. I'm able to be more of a complete player and do all the things I am capable of doing. I don't think I could have gotten to another level in New York."

He feels the reason he is so productive this year is because of the vastly different strategy under coach Dave Cowens.

"The thing with New York was they structured their team around coach [Pat Riley] and what best worked for him. Charlotte is more suited for players than New York was."

Mason has taken his raw intensity and transformed it into fodder for creating a natural and physical team leader. He is driven to win at all costs, a lesson he learned well when growing up.

"It's just a personality thing with me," he said. "Nothing was ever given to me, I had to work hard for it all. I do the same thing on the court."

The secret to the Hornets' success is simple, he says, even with the loss of all-stars Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson.

"The Hornets picked up toughness real soon when I came in," he said. "A few games into the season and we really gelled. When we became tight, that's when we started winning."

He leads the league playing 43.5 minutes per game, more than All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Glen Rice, a testament to Mason's importance on the team.

Not letting success go to his head, he is aware of his greatest commodity – versatility.

"I don't think you can compare me to anyone in the league – you can't find anyone who can do what I do consistently. I can cover all five spots on the court.

"That wasn't something 'Zo [Alonzo Mourning] or Larry [Johnson] could."

The Charlotte Hornets are now 13.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls but are comfortably placed in a playoff position, due in no small part to "Iron" Anthony Mason.


To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997