Nets Notes: Mike James Steps In Down the Stretch

A month ago, Mike James was playing in Russia. Tuesday night, he was running the show down the stretch for the Eastern Conference’s first-place team on the night the Brooklyn Nets clinched their place in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

“Mike's been great just coming in and playing his game,” said Joe Harris. “He's just a good point guard, being able to get into the paint, create for guys, does an excellent job driving and finding open guys but he can also get his own shot, too and for him to be with us for a week and we're running plays for him sort of at the end of the game says a lot.”

In a second half of big swings, the Nets built a 10-point lead before surrendering a 17-2 run and going into the fourth quarter trailing Toronto 83-80. James went the full 12 minutes in the fourth as the Nets turned that deficit into a 116-103 win.

With the Nets down 92-90, James drove and kicked out to Harris for the go-ahead 3-pointer, the start of a decisive 12-3 Brooklyn run. He dropped in a high-arcing jumper, and after a Landry Shamet basket, drained a 3-pointer for a 100-92 lead. After a Toronto 3-pointer, James scored again for a 102-95 Nets lead with 4:58 remaining.

James scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, all in the fourth quarter. Six of his team-high eight assists came in the fourth as well.

“Just been around the world playing the game of basketball, so he’s seen different styles of play,” said Kevin Durant. “At his age, with his experience, he’s one of those guys you can throw in there any time and he can be himself. He knows who he is as a player. Once guys figure out what their games are like and how they approach the game I think it’s easier for them to just slide in and contribute right away and Mike’s one of those guys and tonight he got hot for us and we stuck with him.”

That basketball journey has included stops in Croatia, Israel, Italy, Greece and Spain since 2012, with 36 NBA games with the Suns and Pelicans in 2017-18 season. When LaMarcus Aldridge’s sudden retirement opened up a roster spot, the Nets went looking for guard help with James Harden out and signed James to a 10-day contract last Friday.

“He's an athletic and skilled player,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “As long as he plays simple and makes good basketball plays, like he has with us those first few games, he can play a role for us. He has a burst of pace, he can get into paint, play draw-and-kick. He also obviously showed that he can score the ball, and we know that from his history. But if he can be that guard that ups the pace, that penetrates, draws the defense and makes the extra pass, that's a huge value add for our team. So really, really great performance from him tonight. And those are some of the tools that that he can bring to the table for us.”