Mike James is a frequent traveler of tough roads. Before making it to the NBA in 2001 with the Miami Heat, James had thee years under his belt as a professional basketball player overseas and a few games with the Rockford Lightning of the CBA.
Once James made it the NBA, he has played for nine different franchises in eight seasons. He had his best season in 2005-06 with the Toronto Raptors when he averaged 20.3 points per game. 2013 finds James at the end of another unexpected NBA season with another franchise. He started this year at home with his wife and four daughters wanting for a call from someone. Dallas was that team.
We caught up with the 38-year old point guard after the Mavericks overtime win against the Denver Nuggets to reflect on this season and what his plans are for the future.
TSC; First, how important was this win tonight against Denver?
MJ: “It’s good. We know that this [has] been a tough season for us, but we fought hard and this is a good team. They are one of the top three teams in the Western Conference and in the NBA. We have struggled all year against some of the best teams this season and for us to be able to play good for the whole game, stay in tune for the whole game, is definitely good for our own confidence. Its unfortunate when we drop games with the bottom teams in the NBA, but then we get up to play against the top teams in the NBA.
TSC: Why is that?
MJ: This is the NBA. Even though guys may have losing records, sometimes what separates a team with a losing record may be one or two points in games. Phoenix is a pretty good team and they were hitting shots. Tonight, our defense was better tonight.
TSC: Since a lot of players, yourself included, don’t know where they are going to be at next year does that make them not want to play as good? As a veteran that has been through that before, what is your mindset for the last three games?
MJ: We want to end this season on a positive note. We understand that people can’t focus on free agency, because they better you play, and if you relax now it takes away from who you really are and what you are really trying to accomplish. Our biggest goal and our biggest issue is to continue to keep playing hard. If you a veteran, [then] you should understand that every game is valuable. Even if we are mathematically out of the equation for the playoffs…we still have to continue to be professional and continue to keep earning our keep, so every game we have to give it our all.
TSC: Have you thought what you want to do at the end of this season?
MJ: We’ll see. Of course, I would love to be here, but that’s not my decision. I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me this year. It’s a blessing because as a veteran it made me relevant again in the NBA and opened up a lot of eyes. All I’m going to focus on these last three games is playing with my heart, playing hard, and preparing myself for the summertime. Wherever the chips fall, I will be prepared.
It was not long after joining the Mavericks that James was inserted in the starting lineup, moving Darren Collison to the bench. Now in those close games it’s James that handles the point instead of Collison, which speaks loudly in a Rick Carlisle system that relies heavily on the ability of the point guard to make the right decision.
Mike James opportunities will be limited in a young NBA, but if the call comes, he will be ready.