DALLAS — What a difference a year makes.
Last season, after being shipped to the Dallas Mavericks in a deal with Cleveland, big man Bernard James — the 33rd overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft — took full advantage of the opportunity afforded to him by coach Rick Carlisle. Seeing more playing time than most second-round selections, James went on to start 11 games while appearing in 46 total outings, averaging 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and .8 blocks in 9.9 minutes of work.
Now, after committing to getting stronger and better in the offseason, James comes into training camp attempting to take his game to the next level while earning even more trust and playing time from Carlisle in Year 2.
“I’ve been working the whole summer improving my game — getting stronger, working on my mid-range game, all that. So I’ll be ready to make a bigger impact this season,” James said.
He added: “Just these first two days of practice have been like night and day. The first year, man, it was like a whirlwind. You know, my head was spinning. I’m trying to figure everything out, new concepts, all that stuff. This year, it’s really nothing new, just business as usual. All I’ve really got to do is just try to make the right decision and try to position myself during plays, ’cause our offensive philosophies and our defensive philosophies are like it’s just natural now, so I react and just naturally do what I’m supposed to do now. I can work on moving off of my teammates and getting in position to rebound the ball, stuff like that.”
Hoping to make a strong statement with his play heading into the Las Vegas Summer League this offseason, James now admits that he missed out on an opportunity to impress the coaching staff after being waived just one game into the schedule before eventually being re-signed. The 6-foot-10 James now finds himself competing with new additions Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair and re-signed big man Brandan Wright to earn playing time as the Mavericks try to align 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki with a rim-protecting center on the front line of the Dallas defense.
Still, with more knowledge of what Carlisle expects from the now 28-year-old, James hasn’t skipped a beat early in training camp while garnering more confidence from his head coach.
“He’s a year older, wiser and more experienced, and we expect him to be ready,” Carlisle said of the former Florida State standout and Air Force vet.
“He’s gotten better and better, and he’s gotten a better understanding of what we do here,” the coach added. “As a rookie and a second-round draft pick he had a chance to start 11 games last year, which is a pretty significant opportunity. At times he did well and at times it was a pretty good learning experience. … Last year, I wouldn’t have guessed coming in he would start 11 games, but he did.”
However, with a trio of big bodies also vying for minutes, what will James do in Year 2?