I caught the Mike James interview on 106.7 The Fan’s The LaVar Arrington Show with Chad Dukes. During the conversation, I couldn’t help but wonder what issue (if any) did Flip Saunders have with Mike James? I’ve heard and/or read people who have spent time with Mike James mention that he is a honest and straight forward individual and I have no reason to believe anything else. So in this scenario, I am going to take his comments on face value.
On a few occasions this season he has pointed out that he worked extremely hard in preparation for the season and could not figure out why he wasn’t playing. He reiterated those thoughts during the interview. James seemed to indicate that Flip Saunders, or someone on his staff, had a preconceived notion of him as a player and he was not afforded the opportunity to disprove those notions. Any time that there is a coaching change, it is likely that a coach has inherited a player (or players) that does not fit his/her style of play. Depending on the contract situation, that player (or players) is usually traded or released as quickly as possible. It is a possibility that this situation with James was as simple as that. Maybe Flip, who is notoriously demanding of his point guards, did not feel that James’ style of play over his career fit the way he wanted his point guard to play. And maybe he thought that Mike James was too set in his ways to adapt to his system of play (old dog, new tricks cliché).
If James did not fit, then it would seem to have made more sense for Ernie Grunfeld to trade James during the off-season, or at least much earlier in the season – ideally prior to his hand injury. But after he returned from his injury, and it was apparent that he was going to be with the team for a while, it makes you scratch your head that he couldn’t manage to play for a few minutes per game. Particularly during games where he might have provided a better match-up off the bench then Boykins.
For those of us who aren’t in the Wizards locker room and practices, it would appear that James’ inability to get off the bench would seem to indicate that there was some larger issue just beyond what we can see. While Mike James’ days with the Wizards are over, I would love to know why Flip Saunders felt that his team was better with James on the bench than with him getting at least a few minutes per game.