Best Heat Player
Mason could be named the best Heat player simply for avoiding the sinful temptations of South Beach. Long known as one of the NBA's more volatile stars, during his pre-Heat days he racked up an impressive arrest record for gun possession, assault, battery on a police officer, endangering the welfare of a child, and public drunkenness. When he played for the New York Knicks under Pat Riley, the coach suspended him twice. This year Mase, as he is known, could win a good-citizenship award. He's quit drinking and taken up Bible study. His relationship with Riley is full of mutual praise. More important, he is having his second-best year in the NBA, with an average of 15.9 points per game and 9.7 rebounds. And he deserves much of the credit for the Heat's success in the absence of Alonzo Mourning. His excellent ball-handling has helped make up for Tim Hardaway's diminishing skills. More often than not it has fallen to Mason to guard some of the league's hardest covers, including Chris Webber, Tim Duncan, and Shaquille O'Neal. He has acquitted himself admirably against these big men. At age 34, which can be ancient in the NBA, he is averaging 40 minutes per game. Mase is a free agent next year. One can only hope Riley finds a way to keep him in the lineup.
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