After stops including Eastern Arizona, Croatia, Italy, James back with Suns
PHOENIX — Two years after scoring 32 points in the championship game of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas with the Phoenix Suns, point guard Mike James has earned another opportunity.
The Lamar University product went undrafted in 2012 after scoring 17.1 points and dishing out 1.9 assists per game in 56 games at the Beaumont, Texas, institution. He took his talents overseas where he has played for the past five seasons with teams in Croatia, Israel, Italy, Spain and Greece.
Most recently, the 6-foot-1 James finished the 2016-17 season in Greece with the team Panathinaikos. He helped it win both the Greek Basket League and Greek Cup while averaging 13.1 points and three assists per game.
After signing his first NBA contract on Monday, James was happy to join a familiar team that begins Summer League play on Friday.
“It’s fun to come to an organization where you already know everybody and everybody’s like ‘How have you been?’ rather than ‘Where you from?’ so it’s cool that way,” said James, who started his collegiate career in Eastern Arizona.
During his first stint with the Suns in 2015, James averaged 12.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and started five of the seven NBA Summer League games in which he played. His performance wasn’t enough to win a roster spot and James went back overseas to continue his international career. He played the 2015-2016 season in Liga ACB, Spain’s top-tier league with Baskonia.
This time around, James won’t have to go back overseas, and could have an impact on a young Suns team that is building for the future.
As the oldest player on the Suns’ Summer League roster, James, who will turn 27 in August, said his experience and knowledge will be valuable to pass down to younger players. He showed that on Wednesday, playing with the young core group of Dragan Bender, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Derrick Jones Jr. during their end-of-practice scrimmage.
“He kind of knows the environment and I think he’s accepted the culture that were trying to build here through Coach Watson,” said Suns Summer League Coach Marlon Garnett. “It’s big to have somebody experienced that’s playing the point guard position so that can kind of permeate to the rest of the guys
After only two days, James has already earned the approval of the younger players on the roster. Jones is one of those players. Jones came to the Suns from their D-League affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns, last year and even though he has a year in the league under his belt, he’s never played in the Summer League before. With an older guy like James on the team, Jones knows he’ll have someone to lean on for advice.
“He’s just that point guard that he’s going to just help us out because he’s played in summer leagues before, and he played overseas and he has all the accolades,” Jones said. “We can just sit back and use all the resources we have.”
The Suns kick off their Summer League schedule with a matchup against the Sacramento Kings.
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