Checking in with Mike James

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I caught up with Mike James over the holiday weekend to get a perspective on Randy Wittman, under whom James played during a brief stint in Minnesota, also for his opinion of the addition of Sam Cassell, and finally to get an update on his finger.

James said Wittman is “a good coach, good communicator, and as a former player, he understands the game and what we as players go through.”

Wittman was an assistant under Dwane Casey during the 2006-07 season James spent in Minnesota. Casey was fired after 40 games, and Wittman took over.

James is eager to learn from Sam Cassell, who he calls, “The most underrated point guard to ever play the game.”

“I’m looking forward to learning that mid-range game from him,” James said. “He was old and still killing people with that 15-footer. He’s got a wealth of information that I can learn from him.”

James said his finger is doing well and that he is spending the summer training in preparation for a rebound season.

“I’m training with coach John Lucas,” James said. “Run with my dogs every morning and train with coach down here in Houston. He’s so knowledgeable of the game, and is someone who I feel can help my game.

“This is a big year for me. It’s a contract year,” James continued. “Last year, I averaged almost 10 points, but shot like 36 percent. That’s terrible, Mike Jones. Thirty-six percent? I’ve got to raise my game. We’re ready to rebound from last season, and I’ve got to do my part.”

It was actually a titch over 38 percent, but you get the picture.

James had told me during the season he most certainly was picking up his player option for next season, so it came as no surprise that he said he was expecting to help the Wizards rebound. When asked when he would file the paperwork to officially pick up that $6.5 million option for the 2009-10 season, James said, “It’s already been taken care of, brother. Already done.”

James is aware that his expiring contract is an attractive thing to dangle in front of teams in trade talks, but he isn’t concerned.

“I can only control what I can control,” he said. “Hope to be here. But it’s in God’s hands. So I’m preparing as if I’ll be here, and I’m excited to learn from Flip Saunders and all the coaches on his staff.”

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