Chicago Bulls: Mike James
"I didn't expect it," Augustin said of playing all the minutes. "But you never know. I'm not complaining. We went out there, we fought hard, it was a tough loss for us tonight."
But, given the circumstances, it was a good night for Augustin. By waiving Mike James on Monday, the Bulls opened up a spot for the Texas alum to show what he can do the rest of the season.
"D.J. played great," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "He got us in our offense. It's hard for him (because) he doesn't know the plays. But he did a good job of just coming in; this is the NBA. It's not easy to just come in and play that many minutes with a new team. I thought he did a great job."
Those were the sentiments throughout the locker room.
"I think he's doing a lot of great things out there," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "All of us -- I think Marquis has got to keep grinding, keep going. I think D.J.'s getting in the swing of things, learning the plays, learning the defensive system. I think he's doing a good job."
Augustin, who spent last season with the Pacers and played just 10 games this season with the Raptors before being released, is just happy to have another chance to prove he belongs in the NBA.
"I think I know (the plays) pretty well now," he said. "And the more games I play the comfortable I feel."
Noah clarifies comments: Many fans wondered if Joakim Noah was talking about Carlos Boozer when he said that his players' "true colors" would come out amidst all the losing the Bulls have endured. After Monday's loss, Noah seemed to make a point of clarifying what he was trying to say -- while also discussing the mindset he wants his team to have moving forward.
"You win together, you lose together," he said, while discussing the fact that Thibodeau tried to take the blame for his team missing so many layups. "It's nobody's fault. It's not pointing fingers at anybody when things get hard. It's what we can do better as a team. I'll never, ever, ever at any player or any coach or anybody. It's just all of us as a unit. We have to do a better job of getting this done."
What's next: The Bulls practice at the Berto Center Tuesday afternoon before flying to Houston.
The last word: Thibodeau, on Mike James: "Mike's done a great job throughout his career. He did a great job for us. We certainly appreciate all that he brought to our team. For us, we just wanted to keep some flexibility as we move forward but Mike's a terrific player. He's a great guy, he did a great job for us."
James was brought in as an insurance policy before the season but didn’t see the floor much, playing in just seven games.
"Mike's done a great job throughout his career," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He did a great job for us. We certainly appreciate all that he brought to our team. For us, we just wanted to keep some flexibility as we move forward but Mike's a terrific player, he's a great guy, he did a great job for us."
After Derrick Rose went down with a season ending medial meniscus tear in his right knee, James worked his way into Tom Thibodeau's rotation ahead of second-year guard Marquis Teague. But James sprained his knee two weeks ago and fell out of the rotation and the Bulls have decided to go with Teague and newly-acquired guard D.J. Augustin.
The Bulls now have 13 players on their roster.
He is a hard-charging coach who has spent most of his life around the game. He expects his teams to play tough, physical basketball all the time. He also wants to give his teams every advantage he can to produce a win. That's a huge reason why Thibodeau is so guarded with his daily injury reports. He doesn't want any team to know exactly what is going on with his team's injuries. That's why media members have to read between the lines of his comments day after day.
After Tuesday morning's shootaround, Thibodeau, after giving updates regarding injured players Luol Deng (Achilles), Jimmy Butler (turf toe) and Mike James (knee), was asked if anyone on the roster was dealing with any kind of injury.
"No," he replied.
Only problem was that only a few hours later, Bulls center Joakim Noah revealed that he was dealing with a knee contusion. Thibodeau said he was just as surprised as fans and media were when he found out Noah was sitting.
"He actually got good news," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It's just a sprain, so at this point it's basically maybe a week, it could be a little longer. We'll see."
Teague never had a chance to play with the Iowa Energy after arriving in Des Moines on Tuesday. He made it as far as the team's practice facility before getting the call to return to Chicago.
"As soon as I landed they told me to come right back so it was crazy," Teague said.
The former first-round draft pick in 2012, who played one season at Kentucky, took his demotion to the D-League in stride.
"Actually, I wasn't as upset as people probably thought I was because I was going to get a chance to play quality minutes," Teague said. "I got called back so I was happy about that. I'm just getting ready."
Teague has not been productive in limited minutes over the past two seasons as he has appeared to struggle with confidence. Add the demotion on top of that for the 6-foot-2, 190-pound guard and Thibodeau was asked if he's worried about Teague's state of mind.
"I think he's in a good place; that wasn't about punishment," Thibodeau said. "That was about playing time. Because (Iowa) is so close, we can call him back after a day, and we ended up doing that. But we talked about that before we even sent him down. We talked about him getting some playing time would be good.
"We have confidence in him, he's just got to be ready to go. That was never a long-term situation. It was done with the idea of him getting some playing time."
Teague has averaged just 1.2 points and 0.8 assists in the nine games (8.9 minutes) he has played.
This will mark James' second tenure with the Bulls. He signed several 10-day contracts before being kept at the end of the year during the 2011-12 season.
The 11-year veteran has averaged 10 points and 3.5 assists during his career.
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How it happened: Playing without Derrick Rose (back) and Richard Hamilton (groin/thigh) yet again, the Bulls looked lifeless all day. They had no rhythm on offense and couldn't stop the Nets from making runs. Mike James led the way for the Bulls, scoring 16 points and dishing out seven assists. Carlos Boozer added 16 points, but it did not matter on this day. The Bulls defense, which had been so good most of the year, was terrible. Joakim Noah played one of his worst games of the season, failing to score and grabbing six rebounds in 21 minutes.
What it means: The Bulls stunk. This was the team's worst effort of the season. They had no energy and played like a team that thought it would step on the floor and beat up on a weak Nets squad. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has to be furious with the way his players approached this game. They did not play with the fire that he usually demands from them. It will be interesting to see what kind of effort the Bulls bring on Monday afternoon against an Atlanta Hawks squad that has already beaten them once this season. It will also be interesting to see if Rose is pressed into action a little faster than the Bulls would have liked, given how poorly they played without him on Saturday.
Stat of the night: The Nets shot 50 percent from the field in the first half, outscoring the Bulls 59-45.
What's next: The Bulls hope to rebound Monday afternoon when they take on the Hawks.
But then things changed.
"I was supposed to go to New York for Jeremy Lin, but then Linsanity happened," James, who had previously been waived several weeks ago by the Bulls, said with a smile after Friday's practice. "Everything happens for a reason. Because I'm from New York, it would have been great to go back home. It would have be great to be in Madison Square Garden, a place that I grew up going to, but at the same time, God has plan and purpose and it wasn't meant for me to be there."
James, who has since been re-signed by the Bulls, holds no ill will towards the Knicks’ rookie guard.
"It's great," James said of Lin's accomplishments. "It's great for basketball. It's great for him. I hope that he continues to have success. I think that what he's doing out there -- it's amazing, coming from nowhere. I always say there's only a handful of stars that are born. The rest of them are made. There's not too many LeBron Jameses, Derrick Roses, Dwight Howards. The rest of them, you have to find your path ... in success. [Lin] was able to make success for himself."
Lin has set the basketball world on its ear over the past two weeks, averaging 13 points and five assists in 16 games this season. He has started six games and is a major reason why the Knicks are currently on a seven-game winning streak.
"Once you start getting the fans behind you, and once the media starts loving you, then they're the ones that turn you into a star," James continued. "As long as you continue to keep having success in the game, and you continue to keep doing the things that have gained you success, well then the fame [and] the stardom will keep growing for you."
James, a very religious man himself, is most impressed by the fact that Lin has stayed true to his faith.
"The one thing I respect about him more than anything is that he's not ashamed or embarrassed to talk about his faith," James said. "Which is definitely something that I tip my hat off to him about more than anything else."
CHICAGO -- Even Mike James couldn't believe he was coming into the game. With 6:20 left in the second quarter, James, the man who was playing in the D League just a few days ago, was being called upon by Bulls' head coach Tom Thibodeau.
"I was shocked when coach called my name," James, the man who re-signed with the Bulls on Tuesday afternoon, admitted after the game. "He said it maybe four or five times ... I had to make him say it one more time just to make sure. But it's all about being ready, it's all about being prepared. When your number is called, you have to contribute however you possibly can."
That's what James did on Thursday night, scoring eight points and dishing out four assists in 17 minutes of play. The best part of James' game won't necessarily show up in the box score, though. James played great defense on Celtics' point guard Rajon Rondo during his time, continually frustrating the guard down the stretch. It was a performance that James took pride in.
"I'm not going to let no one smaller than me post me up," James said. "I take pride in my defense. I'm not the biggest guard, but I have some size on me. I'm not going to let him be able to do whatever. Guards have never posted me up and that's not something new that I'm going to start allowing."
Bulls' center Joakim Noah loves that attitude. He noted that James has already earned a nickname from his teammates because of James' ability to play tough defense in the paint.
"Mike came in and he doesn't play that post me up stuff," Noah said. "Jailhouse basketball. That's what we call him."
Luol Deng has another name for James.
"Mike is a pro," Deng said. "He just came in, we didn't miss a beat ... the rotation is different. Some guys haven't played with Mike, haven't played with him in a while. But he's been running the plays. He wasn't asking 'What play is this?' and all that. That's just what a pro does. He was ready and prepared."
So prepared that he may have given Tom Thibodeau a reason to call for him again in the next few days.
The Bulls called James, 36, up from the Erie BayHawks in January when Rose suffered a toe injury. They signed him to a 10-day contract on Tuesday and he will be in uniform when the Bulls play the Sacramento Kings at the United Center. Rose is out of Tuesday's game and is listed as day-to-day because of his back issues.
Erie is the New York Knicks' D-League affiliate and sources said that New York strongly considered replacing second-year sensation Jeremy Lin with James earlier this month before Lin erupted for 25 points in a win over New Jersey after never having scored more than 13 points in an NBA Game.
Signed last month when both Rose and C.J. Watson were injured, James appeared in three games in his first stint with the Bulls and averaged 4.0 points and 3.7 assists. James has career averages of 10.4 points and 3.6 assists in 10 NBA seasons with nine different teams. He averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists per game for Toronto in his best individual season in 2005-06.
James spent last season in China and Turkey before submitting his name into the D-League's player pool, hoping to convince NBA executives that he can still play at the highest level. He was the first player from the largest group of NBA veterans in D-League history to successfully play his way back to the NBA through a D-League stint; other vets to play in the league season include Rafer Alston, Ricky Davis, Damon Jones, Greg Ostertag and Antoine Walker.
CHICAGO -- Mike James was playing in the D-League showcase a couple weeks ago. Now he's the backup point guard on the best team in the league.
Yes, life is pretty sweet for the grizzled NBA veteran right now. But the fact that James came in and dropped nine points and 10 assists in the Chicago Bulls' 95-89 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night just reinforces the same points that everyone around town has been trying to make for several weeks now.
The Bulls have the deepest team in the league.
The type of team that is capable of doing very big things down the line, like winning a championship.
"Championship teams are not built on individuals," James said. "It's built on a team. It's not just the starters that make a championship roster. It's everyone from 1-15. So you have to be able to step in if your number's called, you have to be able to play your role and that's all I was trying to do."
That's all the Bulls have been trying to do all season, and they proved that once again on Saturday night. Playing without Derrick Rose (toe), Joakim Noah (ankle), Taj Gibson (ankle), John Lucas III (groin) and with Luol Deng struggling at the end of the game because of an inured wrist, the Bulls still had enough to pick up another win. While the ability to perservere without so much talent on the floor may surprise some critics, nobody in the Bulls' locker room seemed surprised at the team's ability to guy out another win.
"It's fun," veteran guard Rip Hamilton said. "When you know that your teammates got your back and you know that your teammates is going to support you through thick and thin, guys do a great job. When guys are hurt, they cheer for other guys that are out on the floor. In the NBA, that's hard to find, for guys to put their ego and their selfishness to the side. But on this team, everybody's willing to put all that B.S. aside to go out and win games."
That's one of the biggest differences on this team compared to their peers. The Bulls don't care how they win, just that they do. They don't care who scores, they don't care who plays, all they care about is finding another way to scratch out a win when people start to doubt that they can with so many people on the injury list.
"We'd like to be healthy, but I think we do a good job of stepping up when we have guys out," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "We've got a lot of guys that can play on this team. I keep telling ya'll I think we're the deepest team in the league. We've got guys that are out and guys step right in."
Then Boozer gave yet another example of why his team remains so confident no matter who goes down.
"Look at Omer [Asik]," Boozer said of the Bulls' Turkish center. "At the last minute, [we] find out that Jo can't go. Omer comes in and has 15 rebounds, plays like a man in there. Get him in that rookie/sophomore game by the way. Vote for Omer Asik."
Pandering for votes aside, the Bulls are proving on a night to night basis why they are so dangerous. Tom Thibodeau's system runs with the type of precision that almost every team in the league envies. Yes, the Bulls are deeper than everyone else, but each player knows their role and they execute it almost every time they step on the floor.
"It's expected of us," Bulls point guard C.J. Watson said of his beloved Bench Mob teammates. "We don't get a lot of minutes but we have to go in there and do what we can when we can. Whenever somebody goes out, we have to step up and make the most of it."
They did that again on Saturday night. In the process, they also gave Thibodeau something that may be even more important than the win itself. They gave an added jolt of confidence that even if Rose or Gibson, or Deng, or whomever else gets hurt has to sit out for a while in this crazy season, they'll still find some way to get the job done each night.
They found it in Reno, where it only took a two-game audition in the D-League for veteran guard Mike James to earn an NBA recall.
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