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Nets J.R. Holden: ‘We would like to keep Mike James’

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

J.R. Holden knows about about European basketball. He played 20 years over there, winning 12 national titles in four different countries, two Euroleague championships with CSKA Moscow and hit the dagger that won Team Russia the FIBA Europe championship over Spain in 2007.

Now, he’s the director of player personnel for the Nets after holding similar scouting jobs in Philly and Detroit. So he qualifies as an expert on basketball around the world. And in an interview with Gazzetta, the Greek sports site published Friday, he praised another former CSKA star playing in Brooklyn, Mike James, and said the Nets hope they can keep the 6’2” combo guard beyond the playoffs “and a few more years!”. After two 10-day deals, James signed a rest-of-the-season deal last week. He’ll be a restricted free agent in the summer.

“Look, we want the best for our team, but also the best for Mike,” Holden told Gazzetta. “I do not have an answer to give you. Nevertheless, I will tell you that I really like Mike and I would like to have him with us in the years to come. But I understand that he will also look at what is best for himself. And I will always be on the side of the player and his wishes. But we would definitely like Mike to stay with us.”

The comment comes two days after Gazzetta published an interview with CSKA coach Demetrios Ituoudis who suspended James which made him available for the Nets to sign. In that Itoudis once again trashed James, “Mike James was not on the best terms with his teammates, he didn’t get along with the coach. I’m not God, I gave him opportunities.” Itoudis told the Greek daily.

Holden told Gazzetta that, not surprisingly, he liked the idea of the Nets signing James, who’s played well for Brooklyn.

“I did not discuss anything with Mike then. I had just heard that there was a difficult situation with him and CSKA. We had a lot of injuries and he would definitely fit in well with the team. I have a lot of respect for Mike James’s game. He has tremendous talent and NBA player.“

James had one year of NBA experience before heading to Europe (and leading the Euroleague in scoring two of the last three years) but Holden said there was no doubt in his mind that James is an NBA player.

“Let us be honest. Mike is an NBA player. He just happened to play in Europe. The same goes for [Shane] Larkin. And [Vasilije] Micic is an NBA player. And so does [Nick] Calathes, who has played in the NBA. Corey Higgins too. They just got their talent in Europe where they make great careers. The Nets were an opportunity for James and he wanted to grab it by the hair and take advantage of it. We are happy to have him in Brooklyn.“

Meanwhile, a lot of James’s many European fans were upset Friday to learn that James wasn’t selected to either the first or second team All-Euroleague even though he was the league’s leading scorer at the time he left CSKA at the end of March. CSKA is now in the Euroleague Final Four.

James responded philosophically...

What’s the next step if the Nets want to keep him — and they are indeed happy with his play? Reports out of Europe last week indicated that CSKA will not require an NBA team to buy him out of his contract, which still has two years to run. They’re reportedly satisified just to save money on his contract. James is the third highest player in Europe, making $2.5 million net of taxes.