With the release of veteran point guard Mike James on Saturday, the Chicago Bulls trimmed their roster to 13 players.
As the Bulls dealt with injuries to star Derrick Rose and his backup, C.J. Watson, James, fresh off a stint in the D-League, signed with the club on Jan. 11 to provide game and practice depth, appearing in that night's game against the Washington Wizards. During his short stint in Chicago, the 36-year-old was well-liked in the locker room and by the coaching staff, having won a championship in Detroit with fellow guard Rip Hamilton and playing under coach Tom Thibodeau during the 2004-05 season.
James, who averaged four points and 3.7 assists in three games for the Bulls, received extended time and shined in last Saturday night's 95-89 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. He nearly dropped a double-double, posting nine points and 10 assists while shooting 4-for-6 from the field in 17 minutes of action, a performance that has been indicative of the Bulls' ability, from top to bottom, to step up when a key player or two is missing.
Whenever a man is down, Thibodeau has continually said it's the next guy's responsibility to step up. James did just that as both Rose and John Lucas III missed that contest -- and he could very possibly latch on to another NBA team, say, the New York Knicks, who could use a presence like him at point guard, not to mention that he was born in New York.
"I thought Mike played extremely well," Thibodeau told reporters after last Saturday's contest. "Mike got us into rhythm ... obviously this guy's done it before. He's a veteran, experienced, you know he can run a pick-and-roll, he's going to get a good shot for you in most cases and I thought he played really hard."
Now heading into a season-long, nine-game road trip, the Bulls could look to add a reserve big man, which general manager Gar Forman has repeatedly said is a priority for the front office.
They have spoken to free agents Joel Pryzbilla and Leon Powe, according to the Chicago Tribune. Pryzbilla has often been linked to the Bulls over the past couple months, while Powe spent time with Thibodeau in Boston for two seasons. However, Powe has played in just 50 games during the past two seasons because of serious leg injuries, including a torn ACL in the 2009 playoffs against the Bulls.
Contrary to reports earlier in the week that the Bulls extended a one-year contract to Fabricio Oberto, the retired center's Chicago-based agent, Herb Rudoy, told me on Tuesday afternoon that there is "no truth to" the rumors involving his client and the Bulls.
The Bulls believe they will land a big man at some point this season, although nothing appears imminent and management will surely take its time.