CLEVELAND--The early bird gets the worm, Mike James is proving.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was reluctant to show his hand, but as of Saturday night's loss to the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, the 38-year-old veteran is the team's second-string point guard, supplanting Marquis Teague, who is 18 years his junior and was still a toddler when James, a native of Long Island, N.Y., was in college at Duquesne University.
"Yeah, for now," Thibodeau admitted. "But as I said, we’re going to need everyone on the team, so we’ll see how it unfolds. You have to base it on performance, matchups, how the team functions, so those are all things that you look at."
James, who Thibodeau became familiar with when the pair crossed paths in Houston, had multiple abbreviated stints with the Bulls during the lockout-shortened 2011-12--a D-League call-up, he played behind John Lucas III when Rose and former understudy C.J. Watson had health issues--and after another tour of duty in the NBA's minor league, started the final 25 games of last season for Dallas, so this isn't completely unprecedented.
And while the uneven play of the 20-year-old Teague, a second-year speedster, may have been the ultimate reason Thibodeau has opted to go with James as the primary backup to veteran floor general Kirk Hinrich, himself a fill-in starter for the injured Derrick Rose, James' work ethic--a training-camp invite with a non-guaranteed contract, the journeyman arrived at the Berto Center before most of his current teammates and has continued the trend by often being the first to be at practice--has paved the way for this opportunity.
"Just keep working hard," James explained to CSNChicago.com about his approach. "I only have control over my work. I don’t control what the coaching staff is going to do or how Coach is going to do his rotations.
"But I know that if I continue to prepare myself and not get discouraged or down on myself," he continued. "When the opportunity comes, I just have to take full advantage of it and be ready."