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The sudden retirement of LaMarcus Aldridge has created an opening, with the Nets looking at a couple options. And one that appears to be rapidly gaining steam is guard Mike James.
James is in New York and is on the radar of both the Nets and Knicks. And while sources have confirmed that Brooklyn is interested in James and in talks, both Eurohoops and mibaloncesto.com have gone a step further and reported that a deal is completed between the Nets and the veteran guard for the rest of the season.
“Mike is on a list of guys that they’re looking at,” a source had told The Post. But reports coming out of Europe have claimed a deal is done, with the New York Times saying they’re in advanced talks that could be completed by Tuesday.
Whomever the Nets add would be the team-record 27th player to suit up for them this season, indicative of the type of year it’s been.
“We’ll do our due diligence as always and keep grinding away,” Nets GM Sean Marks had said of replacing Aldridge. “We’ll look at what we’ve got. … 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.”
The 6-foot-1 James played for both Phoenix and New Orleans in 2017-18, and was one of the more productive scorers in Europe. He averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 assists and .354 shooting from deep in 27 EuroLeague games this season for CSKA Moscow. But his time in Russia ended in abrupt and ugly fashion.
CSKA — which was once owned by former Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov — suspended James indefinitely in late March after an altercation with coach Dimitris Itoudis. While he was on a three-year deal until 2023, the Russian club let him head back stateside. BDA — which represents James — tweeted on April 2 that he was slated to fly back to the U.S. the next day to pursue NBA opportunities.
James, 30, had also clashed with coaches in the past. He’d run afoul of respected former Spurs assistant Ettore Messina at Armani Milano, who told the Italian team to let the guard go despite having won the EuroLeague’s “Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy” the prior season.
But now, the Nets — who are currently playing without guards James Harden and Tyler Johnson — appear on the verge of bringing James back to the NBA.
James averaged 9.3 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 boards in 19.1 minutes over 36 games in 2017-18 — playing 32 with the Suns and four with the Pelicans. His only game versus the Nets might’ve been his best, with 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting, five assists and four rebounds to lead Phoenix to an Oct. 31, 2017 win.
The Nets had no comment, with chatter around the league linking them with ex-Net guard Jeremy Lin. Marks himself was noncommittal about whether they’d replace Aldridge with a big, or address their backcourt issues.
“It’s a quandary where we’re at right now. You can’t replace LaMarcus, and you’re not going to find another LaMarcus sitting out there waiting for us,” said Marks. “What we are going to look at is once James gets back in the fold, Kevin [Durant] comes back up and we get a couple other guys healthy, we’ll have a better idea on what we need in rotations and players.
“I don’t think it’s set in stone that we have to go one way or another, whether it’s a big or a guard. We’ll look at where are needs are over the course of the next week and make that determination.”
There are deadlines of note. Monday was the final day they can use the Disabled Player Exception from Spencer Dinwiddie’s partially torn ACL. It’s worth $5.8 million, and can only be used to sign a player through the end of this season.
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