Not even the artist in the lineup can make a pretty picture out of this
By L. Jon Wertheim
Team Page | Conference ranking: 15 | Overall ranking: 28
Equal parts athlete and aesthete, Bucks swingman Desmond Mason is surely the only NBA player who arrives at practice with his hands stained from oil paint. A studio art major at Oklahoma State, Mason often relaxes with a paintbrush in hand, though he is reluctant to classify his style. "It's like basketball, where it's better to have a number of skills," he says. "Sometimes I'll be into landscapes or still lifes, then I'll switch and work on something more abstract."
Given Mason's appreciation for the vast potential of the blank canvas, it's no surprise that he is among the few folks who speaks excitedly about Milwaukee's prospects this season. "Every position is up for grabs," says Mason, who was acquired from the Sonics last February in a five-player deal that sent All-Star guard Ray Allen to Seattle. "It looks like we're going to play an up-down style with [first-round pick] T.J. Ford as the point guard -- which suits me great -- but other than that, who knows?"
In whatever scheme rookie coach Terry Porter settles on, Mason's role is likely to be significant. Displaying the same versatility on the court that he demonstrates at an easel, Mason can swing seamlessly between small forward and shooting guard, and in his first three seasons he has established himself as an A-list defender. While he could stand to improve his jumper (befitting his surname, bricks can be his stock in trade), Mason is a terrific finisher who dunks with as much flourish as anyone in the league. Even as the third or fourth option on offense last season, he still averaged 14.8 points on 47.4% shooting in 28 games with the Bucks. "If they're going to make me a big part of the offense, it's fine with me," Mason says. "I feel like I'm ready for a breakout year."
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Bucks
"I'll get some arguments on this, but the Bucks get my vote for worst team in the league.... They have some decent talent, but Desmond Mason, Michael Redd and Marcus Haislip look like they need another season before they take on leading roles, and T.J. Ford [the Number 8 pick from Texas] is years away. He lacks consistency from the perimeter, he doesn't have a midrange jumper and, while he's quick enough to get into the paint, he's not strong enough to finish. When he drives I'm telling my guys to not come over until he leaves his feet, which will still give them time to block his shot because he's so small. I think about him going up against Shaq, and it's almost frightening.... The other scary thing is that they'll have to rely on Tim Thomas, who has the body of a star, the all-around skills of a star and the paycheck of a star -- but he isn't a star. Maybe it's because he had a hard time establishing himself in the company of Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson before they were all traded away, but it's also because Thomas prefers to play on the perimeter. If you bang him a couple of times, he'll lose his enthusiasm for putting it on the floor and taking it to the rim.... Rookie coach Terry Porter was an assistant in Sacramento, and he's hoping to push the ball and play an open style. That won't help much, because they'll be the worst defensive team in the league: Thomas and Toni Kukoc are bad, and Redd is a joke.... Their centers are Joel Przybilla, a decent shot blocker and rebounder who kills them at the offensive end, and Dan Gadzuric, an active guy around the basket who kills them at the defensive end.... You'll be able to tell if Porter is doing a good job by how much they improve during the season, even if that doesn't translate into victories. There's no way they win more than 25."
Issue date: October 27, 2003