The Beat: Bernard James Interview
On Veterans Day, the Dallas Mavericks' Bernard James joins the guys to talk about his military service as well as the state of thee Mavs.
Bernard James was a Maverick, and then he wasn’t, and then he was again.
As the final player cut from the roster heading into the regular season, James appeared to be out of an NBA job. He spent two games with the Texas Legends, averaging a double-double, before heading overseas to play in China. But after the Rajon Rondo trade when, already short a center, Tyson Chandler suffered an injury, the Mavs signed James and he was with the club yet again.
The ultimate pro and well-liked and respected within the locker room, Sarge instantly found a fit and, although he received minutes few and far between, he contributed when called upon.
James excelled in China, averaging 19 points and 11 boards per game, before returning to the NBA. He appeared far more confident, especially on the offensive end, once he came back. He said after his season debut that his experience as a go-to guy in China helped him grow more confident, and even made him yearn for the speed of the NBA game.
“It is definitely a lot faster than China, but I’m used to it even though I didn’t play very much the last couple years,” he said. “But in practice, the game is just as fast as it is out there. China felt really slow — it felt really easy. It wasn’t something I got used to. So coming back, it just felt normal.”
At 6′ 10″ with a 7′ 3″ wingspan, James is almost undersized for a center, but he plays much bigger than that, if that makes sense. He contests shots and attacks the glass like he’s 7′ or 7′ 1″, and it’s his motor — specifically on the defensive end — that makes him such a valuable asset.
Sarge generally performed well when given minutes, especially toward the beginning of his tenure with the team. His season debut came on Feb. 11 against the Utah Jazz when, as a backup, he finished with nine points, three rebounds, and three blocks in a Mavs win. Two weeks later, he scored seven points and added 11 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Sarge is the Mavs’ only restricted free agent. If Dallas gives him a one-year qualifying offer, that means the club can match any offer another club gives him once free agency begins. It also means James could accept that one-year deal, which is just beneath the veteran’s minimum.
Should Dallas not extend a qualifying offer, James will become an unrestricted free agent.
He’s only spent three seasons in the NBA, but James is already 30 years old. That’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a negative because he’s not a fresh, raw 24-year-old a team can mold into a star. However, he’s extremely mature for a young player because of his age and background, meaning he has the coachability and awareness that many younger players do not possess. He also has very young legs for a player his age, meaning he doesn’t have the mileage an everyday 30-year-old big man does. In that sense, he’s young for his age. There are plenty of positives.
His activity and improved confidence could very well result in a contract offer from either the Mavs or another club, although much will depend on whether Dallas extends the qualifying offer his way. He will certainly be in camp with a team this fall.