Will third time be a charm for NBA veteran Mike James? That's the question.
Having already played twelve seasons in The Association, the guard has accomplished so much over a steady professional career. He won a championship in 2003-04 with the Detroit Pistons, averaged over twenty points (20.3) for the Toronto Raptors in 2005-06, and has since, continued to make contributions (on and off the court) for a number of playoff teams.
While, perhaps, twelve years ago, he may not have expected it, James has also emerged as a bit of a poster-child for earning oneself an NBA call-up from the D-League level.
After sitting out the 2010-11 season, James opted to strut his stuff in the minor league the following season, if for nothing more than to prove he still had plenty of gas left in the tank. As fate would have it, he succeeded in doing so, parlaying an impressive gig with the Erie BayHawks into an opportunity with the Bulls during the 2011-12 season. History repeated itself as James appeared at the D-League Showcase in 2013, when James earned himself a longer gig with the Mavericks after impressing as he donned an affiliated Texas Legends jersey.
The bad news is that he wasn't able to stick. After returning to the Bulls to receive sporadic minutes last season, James is once again back in the minor league with Texas. The 39 year old is proving to be resilient as ever. He's remaining focused and confident in his ability to compete and contribute. The guard is averaging 14.2 points and 4.9 assists for the Legends this season.
Following a loss for the Legends during their first Showcase game, James was quickly greeted by an NBA executive hoping to catch up. What you see is what you get from the vet. Looking to be in his best physical shape of his recent years, he knows how to play the game, will make the right plays, and will support his teammates on the bench and in the locker room. He's proven that much.
Having earned himself a call-up twice before, James is not only confident in his own abilities, but also the opportunity that the minor league provides him (and others) with.
"I think the Showcase gives these guys an opportunity to show their skills and their talent. All of the scouts from the NBA are here. They're looking for guys," he told RidiculousUpside.com. They want to see if the players here are worthy of coming in to help a team in some sort of way, whether that be in the locker room or playing spot minutes. Of course, the D-League is good."
James enthusiastically added that believes in the D-League. While in previous seasons, the vet has had to find his way and be a teacher of sorts amongst the younger prospects in the league, he has benefitted this year from playing alongside fellow NBA alums like Damion James, Renaldo Balkman, and Doron Lamb.
"It helps a lot," James said. "It's easier to play the game when you have bonafide veterans playing with you, instead of guys who come in and just hope to contribute by simply by scoring. Playing with these guys makes it easier for me."
The Legends are well known for stacking up their team with NBA veterans hoping for redemption, and much less potential diamonds in the rough hoping for a shot. Still, as James puts it, they all raise each other's respective games and make one another look that much better. Having experience pays off.
As he aims to break into The Association yet again, James is comfortable playing in Texas, close to his family in Houston.
And while he now resides in Houston, the guard is not someone who forgets his Big Apple roots very easily.
"I wear Amityville on my heart. No question," he conveyed. "I wear it on my sleeve all the time. I'm not only representing Amityville, but all of Long Island."