Mike James, a free agent guard in what promises to be one of the busiest off-seasons in NBA history, is looking forward to whatever opportunity awaits him.
A nine year veteran, he has enjoyed an eventful career that has included winning the 2004 NBA Championship with the Pistons. After playing sparingly for the Wizards this past season, Mike wants nothing more than to get back out on the court.
In the meantime, he too (like everyone else around the league) cannot help but wonder what will happen this summer, like where marquee stars like Lebron James and Chris Bosh will end up.
Nevertheless, Mike has his theories, which he recently shared with me during an interview for my blog, KnicksJournal.com.
It is rare to find a professional athlete who allows himself to open up as much as Mike did. While “marquee” may not be associated with him at all times, no can deny that Mike is confident, upbeat, and undeniably candid.
Take a look as he opens up and holds nothing back about everything from Lebron, the possibility of playing for the Knicks, his NBA Finals prediction, and much more.
Q: Your book, “Fight for Your Dreams: Memoirs of an NBA Star” came out in January. Talk about your motivations for writing the book.
A: I know everyone has a story to tell and my story of how I became a success has never been told. The things that I’ve been through have really been interesting. Through the process I’ve learned so much and I wanted to inspire kids. As a kid, I had so many people tell me I wouldn’t amount to anything. It wasn’t about what people said about me, but what I said about myself. I want kids to know that if you fight for your dreams you can be whatever God made you to be, no matter what anyone else says.
Q: What are you going to do this off-season?
A: I have my celebrity golf weekend July 29th – 31st (starting on the 29th at Bethpage State Park, NY). All of the proceeds go to my scholarship fund. I want to keep helping kids realize their dreams of going to college. Other than that, I’ve been in the gym working out with Coach John Lucas. As a free agent this summer, I’m trying to make myself better and prepare myself for another deal.
Q: Since you are a free agent, would the Knicks be a possible destination for you?
A: Oh my goodness, I’m from New York. It would be great to come home and play for the Knicks. I never thought about it in the past because it’s always tough to go home and play in front of everyone. But now I’d love for my family to see me play. New York seems like they are in position for something positive in the future. I would definitely love to be a part of that.
Q: How well would you fit into Coach D’Antoni’s system?
A: His style of play is a player’s dream. He just wants you to play hard and play the game the right way. If you have an open shot and can be aggressive about it, he wants you to take it. He wants you to put pressure on both ends of the court. As long as you follow the defensive schemes and keep focus on the offensive end, he’ll love you. Who wouldn’t love playing in a system like that?
Q: Obviously the Knicks are in great position entering free agency. What are your thoughts on where Lebron James will end up this season?
A: If LeBron does not stay in Cleveland, the smartest place for him to go would be New York because he would be the biggest sports icon since Babe Ruth. He would be able to market his brand and eventually win with the Knicks.
The “Knicks” team name on his jersey would increase his brand value like no other team could.
Q: Everyone says that Lebron would need a running mate to play with in New York. As a former teammate of Chris Bosh, what are the chances of a player of his caliber coming to New York?
A: If LeBron comes to New York, it would be an easy decision for any other free agent to come to New York. They know that with LeBron and themselves on the Knicks, the team would be that much tougher. LeBron would make any other superstar play that much better. Anyone would love to play with Lebron.
Q: So, if you were a GM with cap room this summer, your strategy would be to sign LeBron first, then go for other players? The wrap on the Knicks is that they do not have enough talent to attract Lebron to sign with the team in the first place.
A: Oh, yeah! It’s harder for another player to join a team not knowing who else will be there. It’s almost like putting chum in the water. You can throw one fish in the water as bait but only a few other fish would show up. If you throw chum in the water, then you’ll have the pick of the litter. That’s what would happen if a team signs LeBron first. It would be easy to add another superstar. When you use Lebron as your bait, you would attract all the other superstars.
Q: Your former team, the Wizards, recently won the first overall pick in next month’s NBA draft. Is there any question as to who they’ll select?
A: I feel like I know for a fact they will select John Wall. Without Gilbert Arenas, the city has been missing that excitement at the guard position. With Andray Blatche coming into his own this season, they don’t need a power forward. The smartest thing for them to do would be to bring Wall in because he would bring success and excitement.
Q: And if Arenas returns next season, he and Wall could play together?
A: Of course. The best thing a team can do for a young point guard is to let him learn the game from a veteran. Gilbert has been through it all and could teach Wall the lifestyle of an NBA player. As a point guard, he could work with Wall on his game too. Playing with Gilbert would be the perfect situation for John Wall.
Q: The Wizards did not really seem to give you much of a chance this past season. What kind of toll does that take on you personally and the way you prepare for next season?
A: The hardest part was training as hard as I did and not getting to play. I was in the gym working hard. I wasn’t bad at all. If you ask anybody on the Wizards why I didn’t play, no one would be able to provide a reason. There is no justification. It was discouraging but it’s over with now.
The only thing I can control now is getting ready for next season. Even though it’s May I’m still in the gym now because I desire to play.
Q: Do you have a five year plan? What’s next for you?
A: I want to play in the NBA three more years and then go to Spain for two years. I want to take my family over there and see my girls learn Spanish. I’m still going to want to play the game but without as much wear and tear. That’s exactly the way the Spanish league is. The game won’t be as physical for me at an older age. I would still be able to play at a good level. I started my career in Europe so that’s where I want to finish it.
Q: What kind of role do you think you can play on an NBA team this season?
A: Listen, I can still average double figures in the NBA. It’s not saying much, but I can play the game. I’m confident I can still make my free throws and hit a couple three pointers per game. I can still defend, so I’m working out in hopes of helping a team. I’m still an asset rather than a liability
Q: With the hype surrounding Lebron, there has been some debate around whom the best player in the NBA is. What’s your take on that?
A: It’s Kobe Bryant. He knows what it takes to win. I was reading the “The Art of War”, which asks the question ‘do you know how to be a good general?’ A good general effectively teaches his soldiers how to march, and if they disobey, the good general has those soldiers beheaded. While that’s drastic, it gets the point across to the next soldiers that come in that the good general means business.
What I’m getting at is that Lebron still needs that killer instinct in him because he still thrives on the energy of his teammates, but Kobe has that killer instinct where he doesn’t tolerate nonsense. He conveys to his teammates that they need to give 110%, just like he does. He also knows that if his teammates aren’t serious, then he needs to take action to get them in line. He’s a proven winner because of that.
Q: Before I let you go, do you have an NBA Finals prediction?
A: Lakers over the Celtics in 6.