Mike James signing with Nets after controversial exit from Russia

Euroleague standout Mike James has been in protocol with Brooklyn since this past Sunday, The Post has learned. The 30-year-old guard will sign with the Nets on Friday after they open a roster

Euroleague standout Mike James has been in protocol with Brooklyn since this past Sunday, The Post has learned. The 30-year-old guard will sign with the Nets on Friday after they open a roster spot.

James would help a Brooklyn backcourt that’s been ravaged by injuries, although this move had been in the works long before MVP candidate James Harden’s most recent hamstring setback in Monday’s practice.

The Nets are missing Harden, Spencer Dinwiddie (partially torn ACL) and Tyler Johnson (knee). James can provide some much-needed depth at the guard spot.

It’s somewhat unclear how the Nets will juggle the signing. They can open a roster spot by waiving the recently retired LaMarcus Aldridge, but after The Post confirmed the pending addition, the New York Times reported James would be signed on a two-way deal while The Athletic claims it is a 10-day contract.

Either way, James became available after a dramatic exit from CSKA Moscow. The Nets’ interest was first reported in Europe, by Eurohoops and mibaloncesto.com. CSKA said in a statement it reached an agreement with James to become a free agent.

The veteran guard played for Phoenix and New Orleans in 2017-18, and may have left an impression on the Nets from playing well twice against them. He had 24 points, five assists and four steals in an Oct. 31 Suns win at Brooklyn. He followed that up with 16 points and two more steals against them in Phoenix on Nov. 6.

Mike James is signing with the Brooklyn Nets
Euroleague Basketball via Getty

Eventually James went on to become one of the more potent 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.

Now it appears the Nets and CSKA have worked out a deal that suits all parties.

James was in an untenable situation with his coach but still has two more years left on his contract, after having just inked a three-year deal last June that paid him $2.5 million annually and made him one of Europe’s highest-paid players.

Now CSKA have a chance to offset salary and pay less, while the Nets can have a scoring combo guard essentially on loan for the rest of the season to help with their backcourt injury woes. It could even amount to a trial run, with teams expected to be able to pay up to $800,000 next season to buy out contracts.

Either way, after James has gone through six days of protocols, he’ll be free to make his signing official on Friday. If so, he’ll be the team-record 27th different player to suit up for the Nets this season, indicative of how crazy a year this has been.

Brooklyn hosts the Boston Celtics that night at Barclays Center, with fan capacity increased by the state.

“We’ll do our due diligence as always and keep grinding away. We’ll look at what we got,” Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks had said recently about filling the roster. “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.”

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Brian Lewis

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