'I’m still a pretty good basketball player, but other people didn’t believe the same things about me so I had to continue to keep fighting to prove who I am,' Mike James tells DB.com. 'But that’s been my whole career. Nothing's changed.' As the Mavs ready for another PG challenge in Deron, our Q-&-A with Mike James:
Mike James is currently the starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks, but the 37-year old veteran has had a very long journey before getting here. After a college career at Duquesne, James has played in the CBA, USBL, professionally in five different countries and 13 different NBA teams.
After deciding to come out of retirement earlier this season, James joined the Mavericks’ D-league affiliate, the Texas Legends.
But it was Derek Fisher’s departure from the team that put James on the Mavs’ radar. After coming out of retirement himself, Fisher joined the Mavericks early in the season. After a few weeks of play (which just so happened to include a number of Maverick’ losses) Fisher claimed it was not the right time for him to being playing basketball professionally and he needed to "spend time with his family.'' The decision turned a few heads, but most were willing to give Fisher the benefit of the doubt.
When Fisher just so happened to have spent enough time with his family and signed with the title contending Oklahoma City Thunder just a few months later, many Mavs fans (and Mark Cuban, too) expressed their frustrations with Fisher.
But when Fisher walked out the door it opened up that same door for James, to fill the role of veteran point guard and defensive specialist. And while he is a lightning rod for criticism, given where he's come from, James can be judged to have done well enough in that role. ... at least as much so that Rick Carlisle has made him the starter.
Our Q-And-A with Mike James, on Dirk, other point guards like Fisher, and Father Time:
On his ability to find a team willing to take a shot at him and stick with that team, while so many other retired players fail in their quest to comeback to the game:
“It’s unfortunate that I had to go through everything that I went through to get where I’m at now. I’m still a pretty good basketball player, but other people didn’t believe the same things about me so I had to continue to keep fighting to prove who I am as a ballplayer. But that’s been my whole career. Nothing has changed.”
On playing meaningful minutes at the age of 37:
“If I wasn't able to play this game at a high level I wouldn’t be fooling myself.
I can still play this game at a high level and I thank God that my body is healthy. People keep judging me based on my age, but the focus shouldn’t be on my age. The focus should be on my game. If my game falls off then that should decide whether or not I can play this game, not how old I am.”
On whether he plans to play beyond this year:
“Do I look like I’m ready to give up? I’ve got a couple more years in me and then I’m going to call it quits. And the only reason why will be because it’s time for me to focus on my baby girls and be with my family.”
On his thoughts on Derek Fisher as he was heading into Sunday (and for that matter, his thoughts on any foe, including tonight's matchup with Deron and the Nets):
“My focus ain’t on no Derek Fisher. My focus is on trying to help this team win games so we can make the playoffs. I don’t have anything to prove against nobody in this league. I’ve been proving it my whole career. I’m going to continue to show who I am as a basketball player.”
On Dirk Nowitzki’s work ethic:
“Dirk is a hard worker. You have to respect someone who is considered to be a great basketball player like himself, but yet continues to keep working on his game as if he’s a rookie.”
On where he would rank Nowitzki compared to some of the other great players he has played with over his career:
“He’s as good as any great that has played this game in the NBA.”
James finished Sunday's loss to OKC with 14 points, four assists and three rebounds in 32 minutes of play. Fisher had just two points, one rebound and one assist in 12 minutes of play. On Monday, he started again at Atlanta, scoring nine points on 3-of-5 shooting (including 3-of-4 from the arc). Tonight, it's Deron (with a 7:00 tip at the AAC)... and James' approach is unchanged.
"I’ve been proving it my whole career,'' Mike James says. "I’m going to continue to show who I am as a basketball player.”