Suns sign Mike James to standard deal, waive Derrick Jones Jr.
The Phoenix Suns have signed point guard Mike James to a standard contract for the rest of the season after his two-way deal signed before the 2017-18 expired Thursday morning.
Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania added that the deal is for one year, meaning James will hit restricted free agency this summer.
“I guess it was supposed to be like a grand celebration but it just feels like normal,” James told reporters Thursday. “I didn’t feel like I was leaving.
“I didn’t really expect anything else.”
To make room for James, Phoenix released swingman Derrick Jones Jr., whose $1.3 million contract was not fully guaranteed.
James is averaging 10.5 points, 4.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game for Phoenix. He started 10 games when point guard Eric Bledsoe was sent away from the team following his infamous tweet after the third game of the season.
Tyler Ulis eventually was inserted as the starting point guard to give him more scorers — a la Devin Booker and T.J. Warren — to set up while the bench gained more offensive punch with James playing behind him.
The Suns signed James to a two-way contract — it’s the NBA’s first year offering players two-way deals — before the season. That allotted 45 days with the NBA team before the Suns either had to release him or sign him to a standard contract.
It also allowed the Suns the ability to move James back to the G League squad in Prescott Valley without eating up a roster spot. But Phoenix never assigned James to the Northern Arizona Suns, and with James’ two-way clock expired, he now becomes the first NBA player in league history to ink a deal coming off a two-way contract.
“He brings us scoring in the second unit, he brings us scoring from the point guard spot,” coach Jay Triano said. “I think he’s been good at running our plays but when a play breaks down, he’s one of the few guys we have that has the ability to break somebody down and find a way to score.”
Phoenix signed the 27-year-old rookie after he spent his professional career playing for teams in Croatia, Israel, Greece and Spain prior to making the jump to the NBA.
Jones, an undrafted second-year pro, made just six appearances this season, averaging 1.5 points and 0.7 rebounds in 5.5 minutes per game while playing behind T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson and Devin Booker.
While it was believed the Suns could make room for James by trading one of their centers, there were complications there. Phoenix entered the season expecting to play with three true centers in Tyson Chandler, Alex Len and Alan Williams. With Williams injured, the acquisition of Greg Monroe gave the team another option to complement Len and the aging Chandler, who has sat out for rest every so often.
Additionally, Len, who in the offseason signed a qualifying offer to remain with Phoenix for this season, is not eligible to be traded until mid-December.