Last season, an array of past NBA veteran players have tried to use the D-League to bridge their way back to The Association. Though it may have been multi-time all-star Antoine Walker who headlined the group, it was Mike James who quickly became the poster child for what so many of his fellow veteran comrades desire to accomplish.
Signing with the BayHawks of the NBADL right before last year's D-League Showcase, James stole the show as soon as he hit the hardwood. Through seven appearances with Erie, the point guard averaged 21.1 points on 46% from the field (and 41% from down town), 4.6 assists, and 1.1 steals.
His solid efforts were enough to turn the heads of some key NBA decision makers. The ten-year NBA pro parlayed his success into a mid-season stint with the Chicago Bulls, who were in need of a veteran presence in the absence of Derrick Rose. James played in 11 games, logging 4.8 points and 2.6 assists in just under 11 minutes per contest.
With the 2012 Showcase set to begin in less than a week, James appears poised to do it all over again. He signed with the Texas Legends on Thursday afternoon, and hopes to use his stint this time around to impress the Legends' NBA affiliate, the Dallas Mavericks.
Fresh off his signing, James spoke with us here at RidiculousUpside.com to fill fans in on what's next in his basketball journey, his time in the D-League last season, and what he's been up to lately as well. Read on to learn more.
Q: First and foremost, congrats on the new deal. How did that all come about?
A: Well, I was talking to the Mavericks, and I guess before they make their decision, they want to see me in a few D-League games. I'm pretty sure a lot of General Managers would want to see me play before signing a deal.
It's unfortunate that I have to go this way. But at the same time, if I want to keep pursuing my basketball career, this is the situation I've been placed in. I have no choice. I'm ready to accept and overcome this challenge. I'm looking at it differently than I did last year. I'm ready to just go out and play some basketball, which I enjoy doing.
Q: You signed with Erie BayHawks right before the D-League Showcase last season too, and ended up parlaying your success into a deal with the Bulls. But it doesn't sound as though such a strategy was a specific plan for you again this time around.
A: Not at all. I expected to be in an NBA uniform by now, but things didn't go as planned. I'm still ready to take advantage of this opportunity, because I'm very thankful to the Texas Legends for giving me the chance to play.
I'm still a pretty good basketball player. I can still defend and score. I can run an offense, so wherever I'm needed, that's where I'll play. I know I can still bring something to the table, so we'll see what happens. But before I sign with an NBA team, I have to take full advantage of the opportunity I have in the D-League. Before I can look ahead to my future, I have to take advantage of my present.
Q: What kinds of things did you enjoy about the D-League last season that made you willing to try it again?
A: I just enjoyed playing basketball. Before I signed in the NBADL last year, I hadn't played organized basketball in some months because of the lockout and just otherwise training as hard as I did. It's funny how something similar happened this year. The excitement, for me, is just being a part of a team environment and being around teammates again. It's one thing to train on your own and run, but it's another thing to be in game-shape, so I'm looking forward to that.
Q: And it sounds like after just signing with the Legends on Thursday afternoon, you'll be ready to go in time for next week's Showcase.
A: I'm good! I'm in good shape, and the only thing that tells my age is my birthdate. If you just look at the way I play basketball and my body, the way I've stayed in shape, most people wouldn't even be able to guess my age just by looking at me and judging me by that. The hard part is that I'm always being judged by age, rather than the way I play the game. It's not my date of birth that is going to help me have success on the court. Instead, it'll be my preparation. I've prepared very well, so I'm excited to see if I can get positive results from the work I put in this offseason.
Q: You mention your age being something that factors into things. What kind of reaction did you get from the younger players in the minors last season?
A: Some of the young guns like to try showing me up--you know, out with old, in with the new. But then there are some guys who are excited because I'm able to help them. If there's something they don't understand, I'm there to help them due to my experience over the years. That's the biggest issue for me, is being able to help a team in anyway I can. If there's a younger point guard that needs to learn how to read defenses better and such, I'll be there to teach them how to do that, in addition to playing with purpose.
Q: To close things out here, I know you're originally a Long Island guy like me, but this new opportunity is going to give you a chance to play close to your new home, right?
A: You know I like being back in New York, but my wife and her family are all from Houston, so that's where I live now. It'll be great to be in Dallas, because it's only a three-hour drive and my family can visit me anytime they want. That's going to be a great feeling, but wherever I go, it's just going to be nice to put a jersey back on.