With training camp just around the corner, the Chicago Bulls are still a man short of the minimum 13 players that NBA teams must have under contract. There has been great speculation as to just who the Bulls might bring in to fill that final roster spot. With depth in the front court looking to be an issue, I believed the Bulls would look to add another big man to the roster, believing all along that Malcolm Thomas, who had a strong showing at Summer League, would get the nod as he has spent time in the Bulls organization and seems like he could provide some decent production given an emergency situation.
While my belief that the Bulls would turn to a familiar face holds true, the face that they have turned to was unexpected. On Tuesday, the Bulls extended a training camp invitation to well seasoned veteran Mike James. James, who is 38, has had one of the more unique basketball careers. After going undrafted out of Duquesne University, James bounced around Europe and semi-pro leagues in the US. In 2001 at the age of 26, James secured his first NBA contract. In his inaugural NBA season, James played in just 15 games for the Miami Heat.
But James has proved himself a basketball surivor. While some of the greatest talents in the world fizzle out around 30, James has hung around the league in varying capacities over the last 11 years. After spending the 2010-11 season playing in Turkey, James made his way back to the NBA with Chicago on a pair of ten day contracts. James, who did not put up any eye-popping numbers in his 11 games with the Bulls, showed that he still had the ability to run the point effectively and intelligently at an incredibly cheap price. Last year, the Dallas Mavericks had point guard issues of their own and awarded James a contract. In 45 games with Dallas, 23 of which he started, James averaged respectable numbers, putting up 11.4 points and 5.8 assits per 36 minutes (per basketballreference.com).
While James has not yet been offered a contract, this invitation to training camp seems to put him in the lead to lock down that final roster spot. As a Bulls fan, the logic for bringing in the veteran is interesting. With Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague under contract, there doesn’t seem to be room for much room on the roster for another point guard. While Hinrich is an injury risk and Rose figures to be on somewhat of a minutes leash as he returns from ACL surgery, the case could be made that the Bulls do need another capable ball handler. Perhaps the Bulls see James as a potential mentor figure to both Rose and the talented but still developing Teague. While I have no knowledge of how James conducts himself with his teammates in the locker room, I can only assume he is a man of high character who possesses an incredibly strong work ethic, based simply on the fact that not many teams are taking a shot on point guards in their late thirties.
While making a big deal out of who the Bulls will feature at Head Towel Waiver seems trivial and silly, over the course of an 82 game season a team will eventually require contributions from everyone wearing a jersey. Whether or not Mike James makes it through camp, or if the Bulls decide to find a fifth big man, the race for the final roster spot remains an interesting story as the Bulls get ready to reclaim the throne in the East.