James' Foot, Finally Healthy, Helps Him Get Back
The Nets announced Sunday morning that they had signed forward Damion James to a 10-day contract, completing an arduous road through rehab for the 2010 No. 24 overall selection, whom the team acquired that night via trade. After playing just 32 games in two seasons due to a foot injury, James was sent to Atlanta as part of the package for Joe Johnson in July.
Signing a non-guaranteed deal with the Hawks before being cut prior to the season opener, James latched on with the NBA D-League's Bakersfield Jam, averaging 15.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in 28.9 minutes in 17 games. He then drew the Nets' attention once Josh Childress requested his release and – among a slew of frontcourt injuries – Gerald Wallace went down with bruised ribs.
"I was really surprised, man," James said, before Sunday's 97-86 victory against the Pacers. "But it feels like home now that I’m back. These guys I went to war with for two years when I wasn’t hurting, so to be in the position and come back to play with these guys, it’s like I never left."
James showed promise in 25 games as a rookie, starting nine and averaging 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16.1 minutes, shooting .447 from the floor.
But he broke the fifth metatarsal of his right foot on December 9 of that season, and spent the year working back into shape, starting the first seven games of last year's lockout-compressed schedule before stepping on Paul Pierce's foot during a January 4, 2012 game against the Celtics. That aggravated the previous injury, and after rehab proved unsuccesful, James was ruled out for the year.
James said he was showering when his agent called with news of the 10-day deal, but returned the call and soon shot cross-country on a red-eye flight to New York City. Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said the staff's familiarity with James, and his own with the system, played into the decision.
"The thing that Damion brings to us is what he’s always been as a player," Carlesimo said, pregame. "He’s very competitive, he’s aggressive, he can really defend and he’s active. We won’t hesitate to put him out there. I could see a situation where he doesn’t play and I could also see a situation where he plays more minutes than a lot of people would think."
After spending the better part of two offseasons intensively rehabbing his foot, James said it's back to full strength and feels great. Most importantly, it's enabled him to earn a second look.
"It’s a blessing, man," James said. "I can’t thank God enough. I really do feel great, and I’m ready to go."