It came out in a simple tweet that, at most, made Suns fans shrug.
Merry Christmas, Mike James!
Sources: Phoenix is releasing guard Mike James. He joined the Suns on a two-way deal and was signed for remainder of season after making a strong impact, but now has chance to land elsewhere.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 23, 2017
Since the Suns signed Isaiah Canaan from the same place they are sending Mike James this weekend (the street), it’s been clear that the Suns don’t need to find solid minutes for all three of James, Canaan and Tyler Ulis as long as all three stay healthy.
And with the impending return of Devin Booker, who can take the ball handling duties for a few minutes a game, the Suns have even fewer spare minutes.
So why did the Suns sign James to a full NBA contract less than three weeks ago if they’re so quick to release him?
Opportunity. And seizing the most of it when it falls in your lap.
James is averaging 10.4 points and 3.8 assists in 32 games this season for the Suns — good numbers for a backup point guard — but he steadily regressed after a hot start that included a game winner to stop the Suns season-opening three game losing streak.
James has made only 20% of his three-pointers since November 1 and fewer than 40% of his shots overall.
His full NBA deal is almost certainly non-guaranteed, meaning that his salary for the season is not guaranteed longer than day-to-day until sometime in mid-January. So releasing James almost certainly costs the Suns no dead money.
So the Suns went looking around, and happened upon Isaiah Canaan.
Canaan burst onto the scene this past week with the first back to back 15 points / 6 assists games to start a Suns career in the franchise’s 50-year history.
Over four games, Canaan is averaging 13 points (43% on threes), 5 assists and 1.5 steals in 25 minutes while showing the ability to fight through and over screens to keep the opposing point guard in front of him — something neither Ulis nor James was able to do.
He singlehandedly carried the Suns backcourt to help the Suns win a pair of road games last week, and then helped the Suns win at home against Memphis.
Could Canaan’s career 36% shooting (including 36% from behind the arc) come back to bite him and the Suns, and ultimately make the Suns regret keeping Canaan over James?
But in the big scheme of things, whether it’s Canaan or James backing up Ulis doesn’t really matter. They’ll both just be holding down the job until the Suns find a long-term answer.
For Mike James, this gives him a chance to land another NBA job.
...the sides mutually decided to part ways to give James an opportunity to land elsewhere after falling out of the rotation in the last four games.
“Mike established himself as an NBA player here and our partnership proved to be beneficial,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Yahoo Sports. “Mike had a handful of 20-point games and helped us win a few games. We wish Mike the best as he works to find another home.”
Now we hope Canaan continues to take advantage of this opportunity for big minutes with the Suns. He could be starting before long, and if he keeps up his 40% three-point shooting, good passing, aggressive drives and defense... well, who know how much money he can make himself next year.