James proves he can contribute to Bulls

649964.png

James proves he can contribute to Bulls

In just 17 minutes against one of the best defensive teams in the league and on a national stage, 10-year guard Mike James proved to himself what hes believed all along. Even with just being in the D-League this time last week, he is still capable of contributing to an NBA team.

Being in the D-League, it was tough for me because Ive always believed Im an NBA basketball player, still, but if thats what I had to do to prove myself, I had to put my pride to the side and humble myself, said James. Its just the passion and the love of the game of basketball took more control than focusing on where I was.

James scored 8 points to go along with 4 assists before fouling out with the Bulls up 87-78 with 41 seconds remaining.

While the numbers dont justify his impact, his floater with 5:47 remaining in the second quarter -- while the Bulls were down 31-26 and searching for a spark -- helped key a 20-4 run to close the half that gave Chicago a 44-35 lead going into the third.

His defense also helped slow Rajon Rondo down in the first half as the Celtics point guard went to the post a few times against C.J. Watson and John Lucas, but would find a tougher time jostling for position down low against the bigger body of James.

Mike is tough. Hes a pro and he came in just ready and we didnt miss a beat, said Deng. A lot of teams, having someone whos gone and his first game back, the rhythm would be messed up a little bit but hes been going in early and learning the plays.

After just under two minutes in the third, James would be called on in the fourth with the Bulls up 66-63 with under 10 minutes remaining and the Celtics gaining momentum, he would respond by scoring 6 points and 3 assists while Watson and Lucas cheered.

James was originally signed because Derrick Rose was dealing with a turf toe injury and Watson was still recovering from a left elbow injury. With Rose is out again, James is third on the point guard depth chart with Watson and Lucas healthy, but his mentality is one Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau talks about routinely.

You have to be professional, you have to be ready. One thing I always say is it always is better to be ready than to get ready, said James. Mentally, I approach every game the same way. Whether I get a DNP or I dont. Im constantly always visualizing the game in my mind. I always prepare by who Im playing against and so if Im not playing, I sit and I try to be the best teammates and cheer my teammates on. If I play, mentally, Im already into the game and Im in tuned to it.

For someone who works as hard as James has been to gain a permanent spot on an NBA roster, again, his teammates are happy to have him back and his attitude and work ethic has served as a constant reminder on what it means to be a professional.

We told him when he came back, we were all happy to see him back, said Luol Deng. This is a guy thats been going in early, getting to know the plays, working out, getting in shape and when hes not out there working, hes getting into the gym early. For the whole team, seeing something like this is great. It keeps you focused on what our goal is.

While his status with the team isnt guaranteed -- signed to a 10-day contract on Tuesday -- James has made good each time hes seen action.

Dealing with the uncertainty of even seeing action and being closer to a return to the D-League than he is with a permanent location for the remainder of the season, James devotion to his religion and his readiness have kept him prepared for anything that may come.

I always believe in my heart Im exactly where Im supposed to be whether its good or bad, says James. Gods faith is in my life and wherever Im at is where Im meant to be at the time. I appreciate and I take advantage of the opportunities.

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls beat Grizzlies; Blackhawks fall to Wild

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls beat Grizzlies; Blackhawks fall to Wild

Cubs trip to White House for World Series celebration Monday on CSN, stream

Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

Wild edge Blackhawks, take over first in West

Devin Hester: From busting returns to a bust in Canton

A surreal offseason puts world champion Cubs in the White House spotlight

Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Start strong, finish fizzles

Cautionary quarterback tales for Bears as playoffs move along

Cubs benched Jorge Soler several times in 2016 for lack of hustle

Northwestern scorching hot in blowout 35-point win over IowaCubs Talk Podcast: Recapping the Cubs Convention

Cubs Talk Podcast: Recapping the Cubs Convention

Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Doug McDermott scored a career-high 31 points, Jimmy Butler had a pair of key baskets in the closing minute and the Chicago Bulls beat the Memphis Grizzlies 108-104 on Sunday night.

The Bulls broke a 104-all tie with 25 seconds left on a 15-footer from Butler and a pair of free throws by McDermott. Butler also had a go-ahead 18-footer with 53 seconds left and finished with 16 points to help Chicago win its second straight.

Taj Gibson finished with 18 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls.

Mike Conley led Memphis with 28 points and eight assists, and Marc Gasol had 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Chicago was without second-leading scorer Dwyane Wade, who did not play on the second night of a back-to-back after the Bulls beat New Orleans at home Saturday.

The game featured 16 lead changes and 11 ties, with neither team holding a double-digit lead.

Most of McDermott's damage came in the first half after the Bulls struggled shooting in the latter part of the first quarter. McDermott came off the bench to reverse the trend.

McDermott scored 20 points in the first eight minutes of the second quarter, moving Chicago's lead to eight. He had 22 points for the half and the Bulls led 52-46 at the break.

TIP-INS

Bulls: Nikola Mirotic missed his fourth straight game dealing with an illness. ... F Paul Zipser, a rookie from Germany, started his second game and second straight after coming off the bench in his first 10 appearances this season. ... McDermott converted a four-point play in the second quarter. ... McDermott's 22 first-half points were more than his total for the four previous games (21). ... Chicago scored 14 points in the first quarter, a season low for the opening frame. ... The Bulls are now 4-5 on the second night of back-to-backs.

Grizzlies: Gasol made a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, marking 17 games this season he has made multiple shots from outside the arc. ... Memphis made 11 3-pointers in the game and has converted at least 10 3s in 20 games this season, including 11 of the last 14 games.

MLK HOLIDAY

This is the 15th season Memphis has hosted a game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. The Grizzlies are 6-9 in the holiday game.

In recognition of the holiday, Memphis wore special MLK50 Pride uniforms. The black jerseys have sea foam blue numbers, letters and piping with the full T-shirt look instead of the normal sleeveless. The piping replicated the railing in front the rooms at the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968, and the blue color was similar to the doors on the rooms.

MISSING WADE

Wade's absence meant missing a reunion with Memphis coach David Fizdale. Both left the Miami Heat organization after last season - Wade signing with the Bulls and Fizdale getting his first head coaching job in Memphis. Fizdale said he is sort of a "basketball romantic" and would like to have seen Wade retire in Miami. But he predicted after the player's career "his statue will be out front and (Wade) will be remembered as the great player that he should be."

UP NEXT

Bulls: Return home to face the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Grizzlies: Memphis travels to Washington to face the Wizards on Wednesday night.