A former first-round draft pick in the NBA, Damion James is filling up the stat-sheet for the Bakersfield Jam as he fights for another shot. Will the assignees from other NBA teams outshine him enough to limit his own potential opportunities?
Despite how much potential a promising prospect may have, sometimes ultimate success still can't be realized.
With NBA teams looking to build balanced teams, filled with players who contribute by doing all of the little things, James seemed like he would fit right in to The Association. Though he's not a very quick forward, the 6'7", 225 pounder still knew how to use his strength to work his way inside. An ongoing trend in the NBA, smaller "big men" have become more savvy players as they look to use their different tools to compete against some of the taller competitors at their position.
Knowing how to use his skill set to his advantage was never James' problem. Instead, it was staying healthy. After playing just 25 games in his rookie season during the 2010-11 season, injuries once again plagued the forward as a sophomore as well.
Appearing in seven games, James contributed a bit of a small stat-sheet stuffer-- 4.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal per game. But he just couldn't stay on the court long enough to make his impact truly felt. After undergoing surgery on his right foot of January of last year, the Nets declined to exercise the team option on James' rookie contract.
It's been a struggle, but after multiple surgeries to finally repair the foot, James is back doing what he does best. But this time, he's doing so in the NBA D-League.
Still just 25 years old, James finds himself as a member of the Bakersfield Jam. After spending training camp with the Hawks, the team's NBADL affiliate snatched the forward right up in time for the season.
Because Bakersfield is an affiliate to a multitude of NBA teams, James has shared the minor league hardwood with a variety of assignee players thus far. The likes of Kendall Marshall (the Suns), John Jenkins and Mike Scott (the Hawks), and Quincy Acy (the Raptors) have all donned Jam uniforms already in the early goings of the season so far.
On one hand, higher competition in practice and stronger players to help elevate his own game are clearly benefits to James' playing alongside these said NBA prospects. But with so many other promising players strutting their stuff in Bakersfield, will James find himself being overshadowed?
He's doing his best to ensure that doesn't happen. Never much of a shooter, James is shooting just 39% from the field, but is still managing to lead his team with 14.2 points per game through nine contests. More importantly, however, the forward is once again putting in that versatile effort necessary to help his team win on both sides of the floor. With that in mind, James is also first on the team in steals (1.8 per game), second in rebounding (7.6 per game), and virtually tied for first in blocks as well (1.3 per game, to the team leader's 1.4).
James knows how to use his body, and isn't afraid to be aggressive and assertive to get his way on the basketball court. Every team in the league could use a player that puts forth a physical effort like the one he does.
James is filling up the stat-sheet and doing all of the things NBA teams like to see from players a bit lower in the rotation. It's just a matter of seeing whether or not James can continue to shine amongst the other NBA talent in Bakersfield as he fights for another shot.