Raptors' James hoping to cash in a couple of times
Free agent to be seeks 3-year deal
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM
Mike James has had to prove himself at every stop in his nomadic basketball career and as he stands to cash in after the best season of his life, he's willing to rely on that ability to make himself wanted rather than take the security of a long-term contract.
The Raptor guard, who becomes a free agent this summer after a breakthrough season, said yesterday he's not looking for a five- or six-year contract.
But here's the kicker: Short term, big bucks.
"If I sign for less years I'll probably ask for more money," James said after Raptor practice yesterday. "That's probably the way I'll go for the remainder of my career: Sign three-year deals with a player option on my third for the simple fact that I don't want to lock myself into nothing long-term.
"I believe I'm always going to get better and I don't want to lock myself into a deal that I outplay maybe a year or two from now."
That James has proven himself worthy of financial security off his season with the Raptors really goes without saying. The 30-year-old, he'll be 31 when training camp starts next season, is averaging 20.4 points and 5.9 assists per game, shoots 47 per cent from the field and 45 per cent from three-point range and plays with an anger and aggression that's welcome on a Toronto team that needs an emotional leader.
The question, as it has been all season, is how much the Raptors are willing to pay him and for how long. James makes $3.4 million (U.S.) this season and should be looking at some kind of healthy raise. The Raptors can offer a larger annual increase — 10 per cent as opposed to 8.5 per cent — than any other team James signs with.
Toronto can also offer a six-year deal and no other team can go longer than five but that doesn't seem to faze James given his desire for two years and his option on a third.
"After those two years are up, I'll be 33 years old and I can let the NBA know I'm still a helluva player," he said. "I can turn that over into another three-year deal (and) I'll still have my six-year deal.
"I don't plan on getting hurt, I don't worry about getting hurt ... that's the reason I don't mind signing a deal like that."
James said neither he nor his agent, Bill Duffy, has had a significant conversation with new Raptors president/GM Bryan Colangelo. Knowing that a decision on James will be one of his first major moves, Colangelo has been close-vested about his intentions, praising James for his contributions this season and saying he'd like to have him back at an equitable salary.
"I understand he's in a tough spot right now, he's doing a lot of observing," James said of the general manager.
"As far as myself, I don't know what the future is going to bring, I don't know what he's going to do about me coming back."
James's play has been the biggest surprise of the season but to the super-confident James, all of the scoring and deadly shooting was expected.
"It didn't matter where I played, it didn't matter where I went, the way I worked this summer, I believe in my heart I worked harder than anybody in the NBA and I knew the way I worked this summer was only going to get me results this season."