DALLAS — Since entering the league as the 33rd overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Dallas Mavericks center Bernard James has had to fight for his spot on the roster.
As a second-round pick, James wasn’t assured a place on the team or playing time his rookie season. In Year 2, James was unfortunately waived before eventually being re-signed after the Mavericks didn’t pick up a team option in his contract. James then entered free agency this summer unsure where he would land before re-signing with the Mavs on Wednesday to a reported one-year, fully-guaranteed deal worth the veteran’s minimum.
It’s nothing new to James, who admits that he learned the art of survival to keep his NBA dream alive after serving six years in the Air Force and three tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar.
“I mean, I feel like contractually it’s the same as the last three summers,” James said before leading the Mavs’ summer-league squad back in July. “First year, I wasn’t guaranteed a contract. Second year, it was a team option. And this year, I’m a free agent. So, for me, it’s the exact same situation. I’m playing for a contract, and that’s the way I’m going to go out there and play. That’s my mindset.”
Appearing in 76 career games and making 11 starts during his first two seasons as a pro, the 6-foot-10 James holds averages of 2.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 7.9 minutes a contest. Still, James believes he can contribute much more to the Mavs this upcoming season, looking to battle fellow big men Brandan Wright and Greg Smith for playing time behind starting center Tyson Chandler.
James, 29, sat out the finale of the Mavs’ summer-league schedule but impressed during his four games, averaging 13.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in 25.5 minutes of work. And after not allowing his uncertain future to affect him on the court, James also showed a much-improved offensive game down low that could benefit the team this season.
“Mid-range shooting and posting up, showing that I can play in the post. The Mavericks, we don’t do a whole lot of posting up, except with like Dirk [Nowitzki], so my goal is to actually start to get some catches down there and show that I have some post moves,” James said is his goal entering the season.
He added: “For me, right now, if I get the ball down there, I’m thinking score. I’ve got to start looking for other people and passing as well.”
Hoping that his standout summer performance will lead to more playing time during the regular season, James will head into training camp later this month focused on proving to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle that he can be a force in the interior. James will also try to rekindle his dominance from his senior season at Florida State, when he averaged 10.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
More importantly, with his future still uncertain for seasons to come, James says he wants to help the Mavs return to playing at a high level as the team tries to recapture the title.
“You know, everybody knows, when you’re in a contract year, it’s definitely on your mind. But I’m trying not to let that affect my decision making or anything like that on the court,” James explained. “You know, I just want to go out and play hard. And I just want to win, really. That’s the goal. I feel like, if you have that mindset, everything else will take care of itself. You’ll get a contract and you’ll stay in the league, so that’s really the way I’m going about it.”