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Eurohoops: CSKA executive says Mike James time in Russia is over

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Denver Nuggets Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Eurohoops, the official fan blog of the Euroleague, reported this weekend that CSKA Moscow, who essentially “loaned” Mike James to the Nets in April, is ready to let him go and stay in the NBA. James is under contract with CSKA through 2023.

Now, CSKA’s president Andrei Vatutin has said it directly: James will not be back with the Russian team.

Aris Barkas of Eurohoops reported over the weekend...

The Nets‘ deal was a gift from the heavens for all sides involved. James is getting the chance to showcase his talent as a member of elite NBA contenders that need guards. And CSKA on the other hand is willing to let James continue his career in the NBA – and not end up signing with a European rival – while negotiating with him in the upcoming summer his release and saving some, if not all, the money from the rest of his deal, which includes $5 million in salaries until the summer of 2023.

Similarly, Chema de Lucas, the Spanish hoops writer who broke the news of the Nets interest in James, tweeted Monday that “Mike James will try to stay in the NBA.”

Making James’s stay in the U.S. more likely is the news that CKSA has extended head coach Dimitrios Itoudis through 2023. It was Itoudis who suspended James indefinitely back in March. That ultimately led to James decision to attempt an NBA comeback and sign with the Nets. In fact, Itoudis has continued to criticize James, implying that he forced his way out of the perennial Euroleague power.

Vatutin, CSKA’s long time CEO, noted the disconnect Tuesday in saying James will not be back.

“It’s clear that while Dimitris [Itoudis] is with the club, Mike [James] cannot be with us,” Vatutin said in an interview for the Russian Match.

“The decision was made by the coach, the roots were in the relationship of two people. And relationships are about characters. It happens in families, there’s a spark and suddenly a fire. Even I don’t know all the details of what happened, both sides see the situation their own way,” Vatutin told Match’s Evgeny Dzichkovsky. “Until recently, I believed that a consensus would be found, but alas. Mike is a person with his own characteristics., a great player. He congratulated me and one of the partners on reaching the Final Four.”

Normally, signing a Euroleague star like James would require an NBA team to pay off his former club. James was the third highest paid player in Europe before being suspended. Arkis, however, suggested that the Russian team might be satisfied with just saving a big chunk of James’ contract.

Practically, Mike James is currently “loaned” to the Nets by CSKA Moscow. There’s no buy-out involved and an educated guess can be that CSKA already saved the money from Mike James’ salaries for the last few months of the 2020-21 season.

“I’m glad for his success in the NBA, except that the headlines were in the spirit of “CSKA ran out of money’,” Vatutin added. “Parting with leaders when they are under a contract is never painless, but Mike’s good performances at Brooklyn benefit both him and us.”

If needed, NBA teams can assist European free agents with buyouts but cannot pay an international team more than $800,000. (Mirza Teletovic paid his Spanish league team out more than $2 million to sign with the Nets.)

So what about the Nets? Would they be interested in keeping him? James has played well for Brooklyn and has won the praise of Steve Nash. On Sunday, he scored 14 points and handed out eight assists (not including the bounce pass off the backboard that Kevin Durant slammed through the hoop finishing up the Play of the Year.).

Moreover, Kevin Durant, who knew James through his brother prior to his signing, said Sunday, “Me and Mike (James) have been hanging out everyday since he’s got here.”

According to Bobby Marks, the Nets can make James a restricted free agent prior to the end of July. That would mean the Nets could sign him outside the salary cap and match any offers he might receive from other teams ... assuming they need to pay him more than the vets minimum.