DALLAS – After returning to Dallas from China on Feb. 2, Bernard James surveyed the NBA landscape and knew exactly what team he wanted to play for.
The Dallas Mavericks.
James’ dreams came true Wednesday morning when the Mavs signed him to a 10-day contract with the hope that he can help shore up their interior defense and rebounding issues. James (6-10, 235) played the past few months in China for Yao Ming’s team – the Shanghai Sharks – and was looking to hop back into the NBA as soon as possible.
And since he played the previous two NBA seasons with the Mavs, and because center Tyson Chandler will miss tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz with a sprained left ankle, James called his signing with the Mavs an omen.
"I’ve got a guy out here (in Dallas) and I was training with him and just staying prepared and I happen to get a call up from the Mavs, which is a perfect situation because I was already here in Dallas,’’ James said after he went through Wednesday’s shootaround. "Last year I decided to make Dallas my permanent home, so whether I signed back here or end up with another team or not, I’d still be here in the offseason.’’
The contract James signed runs through Feb. 20. So, in addition to tonight’s game he’ll also be available to play in the Feb. 19 road game against Oklahoma City and the Feb. 20 home game against the Houston Rockets.
After that, James can either sign a second 10-day contract with the Mavs. However, once a second 10-day contract expires, the Mavs would have to sign James for the remainder of the season or he would have to play elsewhere.
Had James waited to sign with the Mavs the day of the game against Oklahoma City that would have given him six games on his initial 10-day contract. But he wasn’t willing to wait that long, particularly since he knows that with Chandler down, the minutes are plentiful for interior players.
"I figured I’ll get a shot,’’ James said. "It doesn’t matter if I get three games or two games.
"They’ll make their decision, so I’m not too concerned. I’m just ready to play. I didn’t really want to wait.’’
Coach Rick Carlisle said James picked up the plays "very quickly’’ in today’s shootaround.
"He remembers all the stuff we were doing,’’ Carlisle said. "We have a few new things, but he picked those up very quickly and he'll be fine.
"The Letter of Clearance (from FIBA that allowed James to play for the Mavs) came through literally five minutes before shootaround started, so he was able to participate so that helps.
"So that paperwork got done and he was able to sign, so he'll be ready to play."
James said he averaged 22 points and 15 rebounds in China. If he gets anywhere close to those numbers with the Mavs, they’ll really be able to contend for the NBA title.
"Rick told me right up front that I'm going right into the fire so I’ve been preparing,’’ James said. "We had a good shootaround, I'm on the same page with everybody else again.
"I'm ready to get in tonight and see what I can do."
Affectionately nicknamed Sarge because of his status with the Army, James was in the Mavs’ training camp last fall but was released before the season started. Now, they’re hoping he can come to their rescue.
"I’m excited to have him back,’’ forward Chandler Parsons said. "He was a very hard-working guy, and he obviously has size and athleticism and is very bouncy around the rim.
"It’s definitely something that we’re missing that he could help us out. I’m glad that he went out there and continued to work and didn’t hang his head and played really well in China and now has another opportunity to get here and stay here.’’
In 46 games as a rookie with the Mavs during the 2012-’13 season, James averaged 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 9.9 minutes per contest. And in 30 games with Dallas last season he averaged 0.9 points and 1.4 rebounds in 4.9 minutes per outing.
This time around, James hopes he can show the Mavs enough to where he can make this his permanent NBA home.
"Of course, this is where I was drafted and where I spent all my time in the NBA, so it's good to be back on a 10-day,’’ James said. "Hopefully we can extend it for the rest of the year."