Kyrie Irving: Nets Must Raise Level Of ‘attention To Detail’ Without James Harden

NEW YORK -- On his pregame Zoom call last Friday, Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said that he expected Mike James, who had just signed a 10-day contract, to play against the Boston Celtics that night. James had been one of the best players in the EuroLeague before CSKA Moscow suspended him and freed him to join the Nets. Nash also revealed, with a laugh, that he hadn't even met James yet. 

Nash rectified this shortly thereafter by popping into the practice court at Barclays Center. James was playing 3-on-3 with Brooklyn's "stay-ready group," the brigade of bench players (or, sometimes, starters returning from injury) putting in extra work to make up for what they're not doing at game time. The Hall of Fame floor general-turned-coach "didn't really have to introduce himself, but introduced himself," James said. The arena felt like a maze to James, who would tell his new teammates that they might have to remind him of their names a couple of times before he remembers them all. Nash encouraged him not to sweat this strange situation, to just push the pace and play with his usual aggressiveness.

In warmups, James chatted with Blake Griffin, another Net who got out of a multi-year contract and wound up coming to Brooklyn as a free agent. About half an hour later, James shared the backcourt with Kyrie Irving, and as the All-Star took a couple of free throws, he stood at the center of the giant "B" in the Nets' logo, receiving pointers from DeAndre Jordan.    

James was on the floor for Brooklyn's 24-7 run in the second quarter and contributed its most eye-catching shot: a leaning, off-the-dribble corner 3 off a pick from Griffin. That it might not have been his most audacious attempt of the evening is remarkable: James' two other made field goals in his Nets debut were a contested runner off a Eurostep and an honest-to-goodness skyhook, both delivered over Tristan Thompson early in the fourth quarter, separated by about 75 seconds.