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Stein: Nets, Euroleague star Mike James in ‘advanced talks’ for open roster spot

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Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz v CSKA Moscow - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Photo by Frank Lovicario/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Officially, the Nets won’t have a roster spot available until they waive LaMarcus Aldridge, but that is expected to take place soon. Now, an unlikely name has arisen for that spot whenever it opens: Mike James, a 6’1” point guard who last played for CSKA Moscow, the Euroleague powerhouse, in March.

According to reports out of Europe and now the U.S. the last few days, James has either agreed to sign with the Nets or is in New York for a workout with the Nets.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Monday, Marc Stein of the Times reported the Nets are in “advanced talks” with James and could sign him within hours.

Since he was not on an NBA roster as of April 9, he would be eligible for the post-season.

Earlier, Brian Lewis of the Post tweeted that while there’s interest in James from the Nets, nothing had been decided...

Andrey Kartashov, who covers CSKA for TASS, the Russian news agency, similarly tweeted...

Later, Lewis quoted a league source as saying, “Mike is on a list of guys that they’re looking at.”

If there are other possibilities, who might they be? A number of names have been tossed around, from veterans like Jeremy Lin to development prospects like Thon Maker. The speculation about James may indicate that the Nets are interested in ball-handling help rather than replacing Aldridge like-for-like.

James is one of the Euroleague’s top guards, having averaged 19.3 points and 4.7 assists in 27 Euroleague games this season, but he left CSKA at the end of March under a cloud. James was suspended by CSKA following an altercation with head coach Dimitris Itoudis, one of the league’s top coaches. It was his second suspension of the CSKA season. He has clashed with other coaches in his career as well. Two years ago, Milano declined to renew his contract even though he had Europe’s top scorer the previous season.

Still, he’s among Europe’s top scorers, as this video of James highlights this season show...

In his career, James, a product of Lamar University, has played for the Suns and Pelicans in the NBA as well as in Croatia, Israel, Romania, Greece, Spain as well as Russia. In 2017-18, playing with the Suns, he averaged 10.4 points and 3.8 assists in 32 games, 10 of them starts. He had two of his best games vs. the Nets, scoring 16 and 24 points. He has not played in the league since.

Rumors of the Nets interest started late last week when reporters for Eurohoops, the Euroleague’s official fan site, reported he was a “candidate” to join the Nets. This was after a earlier report that the Knicks were doing their own due diligence on James.

Then overnight, Chema de Lucas, a respected European basketball writer, went further. tweeting that James will play for the Nets for the rest of the season, adding that he will be “immediately incorporated.”

Since then, veteran NBA writers Chris Sheridan and Sam Amico have tweeted that the Nets will indeed sign James.

Not only would the Nets have to waive Aldridge before signing James or anyone else; CSKA would have to release James ... unless that’s quietly happened already. At this point, he remains under contract with the Russian team which has said it would work with him on getting an NBA deal.

The Nets also face a deadline today. It’s the last day the disabled player exception granted after Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury can be utilized. The $5.8 million DPE can only be used to sign a player till the end of the year. The Nets will still have their pro-rated taxpayers MLE, valued at around $4 million. It drops daily.

Last week, Sean Marks said this of the process.

“We’ll do our due diligence as always and keep grinding away. We’ll look at what we got. I think with certain guys coming back this week and working themselves back into the rotation and playing more minutes, I don’t think we want to jump to any conclusions on what we might need or what we might be missing.

“We’ll look at every alternative and everybody out there. Obviously losing a player like LaMarcus is without a doubt a blow to us. It’s about us being flexible and it’s a great opportunity for somebody else - a group or a person - to step up and take advantage of this opportunity.”

James would be the 27th player to wear the black-and-white this season, a franchise record.