It's Scary How Bad Backup Mavericks Point Guard Mike James Can Be.
Immediately wipe your mind of the Dallas Mavericks' performance on Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets. It was a complete rout — something we've become familiar with this season — as the hometown team yet again chalked another one up in the loss column. Plus, Houston has a knack for occasionally blowing teams out.
In other words: This was yet another outlier.
So forget about it. Ignore it. Teams get blown out from time to time.
Instead, let's focus on a real issue that has been plaguing the Mavericks of late. Yes, their inability to win is a major concern, of course. But this is more of a personnel concern.
Specifically, let's talk about Mike James, who has become the primary backup point guard for this team. This has been a major problem ever since he was signed by the team.
It wasn't supposed to play out like this, though. James was originally brought in on a 10-day contract. Then, of course, he was signed through the rest of the season after the initial contract expired. Since that time, his minutes have far outweighed any semblance of production he's offered on the court.
I'm sure Mike James is a nice guy — he is a published, inspirational author, y'know — and I'm not here to attack his character. No, the real purpose of this piece is to try and find a way to logically theorize the purpose of James receiving so much playing time when he really shouldn't be anywhere near the floor at all.
If you haven't noticed: James likes to shoot the ball. A lot. In fact, he takes 13.9 field goal attempts per every 36 minutes he plays. Of the players who are — and deserve to be — in the regular rotation, only Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Chris Kaman take more shots per 36 minutes. It can be argued that Kaman should probably shoot the ball less, maybe, but at least he connects a high percentage of those shots. James, simply put, does not. This season James is shooting just 31.1 percent, a number that is all mixed up.
Head coach Rick Carlisle generally keeps his players on a short leash when it comes to production — just look at how often Rodrigue Beaubois plays. Yet, when it comes to James, this doesn't seem to apply. Carlisle has played James in late-game situations over Darren Collison, and consistently at that. Collison may be dealing with his own issues on the court this season, but rarely has he done anything so egregious as to have James take his minutes to close out a game.
Late game situations featuring James should be an anomaly. But, with Carlisle, they are increasingly common.
It's shocking that this goes down at all, really. Once James enters the game, Dallas' pace of play immediately slows down. The Mavericks, who have the fifth fastest pace in the league, like to beat their opponents down the floor as often as possible and look for quick, open shots. James, however, will slowly walk the ball up the floor and look to set up a play which will likely not develop until very late in the shot clock. Such possessions usually result in low percentage, contested shots.
Plus, as mentioned above, James loves to shoot the ball. Once the ball is swung his way, he shoots it, pretty much regardless of the situation. Occasionally, sure, he makes one. But only occasionally.
James is especially bad at shots close to the basket. Even permanent Mavericks bench fixture Dominique Jones shoots a higher percentage from this part of the floor.
Really, James' propensity to fire away is just absurd. And it clearly hurts the overall cohesion of any unit on the floor with him, right?
Remarkably, actually, that last statement isn't entirely true. Roughly half the lineups in which James has been featured in have positive Net Ratings. Perplexing? Absolutely, given all the visual evidence to the contrary. This is why there are advanced stats, though.
Still, James has proven difficult to watch. His reliance on increasingly selfish decision-making on offense far outweighs his contributions elsewhere. And a single metric doesn't a player make.
So the question remains: Why does Carlisle play him so much?
An obvious answer? He trusts James to manage the game better than the other alternatives at his disposal. To be sure, neither Beaubois nor Jones has shown any sort of reliability. And that just leaves James as the only alternative to Collison.
But, no, that's too easy. Here's my theory: Mike James is the Mavericks' secret tank weapon.
They throw him into close games, knowing that most of the offensive possessions he leads will fail, thanks to his propensity to shoot quickly and poorly from all over the floor.
Hoisting up an unnecessary and horribly bricked three-pointer that comes with plenty of time left on the clock and his team down a single point? James can do that. Failing to look to pass the ball to an open player, even a seven-foot-tall German one? James can do that.
Carlisle isn't dumb. He knows that James is the key to the Mavericks getting a good Draft Lottery pick. What other reason could there possibly be to play him this much? C'mon. This team is secretly tanking. And James is the lead point in that attack. It's obvious.
Further proof? He went to Amityville High School. In Amityville, New York. Yes, that Amityville. That alone is reason enough to be suspicious!
Still, if they ever plan on trying to win — although, at this point, I really don't see why they would — then playing James is simply a mistake. It's impossible to root for him.
On the other hand: Rooting for ping pong balls? That's an idea I can get behind.