In a matchup that, like last season, is already being billed as a potential NBA Finals preview, the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are set to square off on Christmas Day, the NBA announced on Tuesday.
But unlike last season, one player could wind up on the opposite side of the budding rivalry between the two superteams.
Mike James, who played the final part of the 2020-21 season with the Nets after being released by CSKA Moscow, has worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers, according to a report from Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. The Lakers also worked out Isaiah Thomas and Darren Collison, Haynes reported, as they search for guard depth. Haynes added that Thomas worked out personally with LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
“A signing is not imminent, sources said. The Lakers could also elect to bring players into training camp to fight for the last few roster spots,” Haynes wrote.
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James proved a valuable depth piece for Nets
As injuries took their toll on the Nets last season, James proved to be a valuable addition.
The 31-year-old didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his 7.7 points, 4.2 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 18.2 minutes across 13 games for Brooklyn, but his contributions were important as the team looked to the end of its bench down the final stretch of the season.
James even got some minutes in the playoffs, averaging 11.4 of them while appearing in nine postseason games. He averaged 3.7 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists before the Nets were bounced by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round.
“Mike’s been great just coming in and playing his game,” Nets guard Joe Harris said in late April, via Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “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.”
“He knows who he is as a player. Once guys figure out what their games are like and how they approach the game, it’s easier for them to just slide in and contribute right away. Mike’s one of those guys.”
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Marks Setting the Bar High
Heading into 2021-22, Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said the team has unfinished business.
“Without a doubt. A hundred percent. We talk about it a lot,” Marks said last week during a media session, per NBA.com. “We acknowledge it. We have honest conversations about it. It’s really important not to shy away from that. Let’s call it what it is. We all know what our aspirations here are, what we’re gunning for, what the goal here at the end of it is. And to have a group of 15 guys that are in alignment and there’s really, hopefully, nothing that’s going to stand in our way – there’s no individual pressures and so forth – this is about a team of not only players but the staff that are all pushing in the same direction for that ultimate goal. We know there’s unfinished business here, and we hope that we can get there. That’s certainly the plan.”