After the completion of a wild New Jersey Nets season, Nets are Scorching will be looking back at the players that made it happen.
Final Stats: 25 G, 9 GS, 16.1 MPG, 4.4 PPG, 0.8 APG, (0.7-2.7) 3.4 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 44.7 FG%, 0 3P%, 64.3 FT%, 90 ORtg, 10.1 PER
It felt like it should’ve been much more. More playing time, more minutes, more points, more moments. Unfortunately, a bad foot injury slowed the one 2010 rookie the Nets kept. Only playing about a third of the season, James’s injury unfairly struck him down in the first start of his career in December. He returned late in February, but was shut down soon afterwards when the season became meaningless and the risk of re-injury ballooned.
This is not to say that we didn’t see some things from James. He always seems to know his spot on the offensive end and continually scraps defensively as well. His shot still needs work, but he’s getting there; I’m surprised he only took three threes on the year, but I figure he’s just got to get used to the NBA three. I’ve said throughout the year that he’s a sparkplug kind of player: the kind of guy who would never be the first offensive option on a good team, but in the right role on the right team would make a huge difference. The Nets aren’t that team yet, but they’re close – and the energy he’s able to bring to the table will help him succeed around stars like Deron Williams.
The Pink Shirt: With no question, Damion James’s best day in a Nets uniform so far was, like Travis Outlaw’s, an ocean away. The day before the triple-overtime extravaganza, James knocked down 5 of 6 shots en route to a 15-point, 7-board performance against the Toronto Raptors. He also notched three assists and a steal. Given the structure of the Nets, I’d say we saw the best lineup the Nets could have had this season: Williams, Morrow, James, Humphries, and Lopez.
The Paper Bag It’s difficult to give a paper bag to a guy who you didn’t really expect to dominate. He’s kind of like Robert Horry in that sense: if he does something good, great, and if he doesn’t, it’s not a big deal. Still, I’d say his worst day came in an embarrassing loss to Boston in December, one I sat courtside at. In a game that the Nets never really stood a chance in, James shot 2-10 from the field, turned the ball over three times, and gave me the “uh, this guy doesn’t look like an NBA player” impression. Granted, Travis Outlaw was busy missing every shot he took, so I was noticeably distracted. But James’ youth was clear on that day.
Final Thoughts: Mark pointed out this morning that the Nets see James as part of their core, and while I agree it’s a little surprising, I believe it. The guy was plagued by a bad foot for most of the year and still showed flashes that made you think he could be a legitimate NBA starter. As long as he doesn’t re-injure the foot, his energy alone should earn him major minutes. If the Nets end up swinging a deal to get rid of Outlaw’s contract, that just means even more minutes.
Final Grade: B-