Credit: Alfonso Cannavacciuolo/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Credit Alfonso Cannavacciuolo/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

AS Monaco star Mike James is known for his standout performances on the court, earning him fans from all around the world, but away from the hardwood, his personality also generates a lot of interest.

3-pointers this season

Points made: 8,5
Accuracy: 36,9%
Place in standings: 11
Record max: 13
Record min: 3
Most made 3FGs: Mike James

During an exclusive interview with Euroleague Basketball, James discusses Monaco reaching the playoffs, Kevin Durant coming to watch two of its games, and the impact of head coach Sasa Obradovic, among other things.

"It's tough because my two years in CSKA Moscow, I really didn't get to finish," the 31-year-old guard commented on this past campaign.

"We had the COVID year, so I didn't get to go into the playoffs and try to fight for a Final Four spot. And then, last year I went to Brooklyn. As far as being part of a team, CSKA was better and I played individually better those seasons, but this season is a bit more special because I felt like I was one of the driving forces to bring us to the playoffs."

Monaco surprised everyone, making their first-ever EuroLeague playoffs and bouncing back from a big losing streak. James was selected to the All-EuroLeague First Team and looked like a solid contender for the MVP award, which ended up in Nikola Mirotic's hands.

The experienced guard thinks that "it's weird in Europe because it doesn't really matter who's on your team. Automatically, if you're in Monaco, ASVEL or Red Star, one of those lower-budget teams, you have no chance of going to the Final Four."

It could be me and everybody else to make first team and somehow, they'll say, 'Oh yeah, they can't go because they don't know how to do it.' Which I think is weird because it doesn't make much sense. So, I think if you would have looked at our roster, maybe we have a lot of unknown people, but some of the experience we had and some of the players, I think we should have gotten more credit for being better earlier than we actually got."

Mike James

Mike  James
Mike  James
MIN: 31.19
PTS: 16.37 (51.35%)
REB: 3.18
As: 5.74
ST: 1.24
BL: 0.08
TO: 2.5
GM: 38

Hiring coach Sasa Obradovic as Zvezdan Mitrovic's replacement in December 2021 proved to be a decision that paid off, especially in the EuroLeague. Monaco didn't win the LNB title, losing it out 2-3 to LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, but overall one could easily notice how different James was feeling after the coaching change.

Pairing up with former Hornets swingman Dwayne Bacon, James gradually found his role on the court - and that's largely thanks to the Serbian coach.

"It was big. I got back to playing how I normally played the last 3-4 years, just with the ball in my hands, making decisions and being a focal point in the offense and more of a leader in general. I think once he came, we just implemented that and it helped me settle down, which in turn made me help other people settle down.

It was a big problem for me and Dwayne Bacon at first, because without either one of us having defined roles, sometimes it felt like we were both jockeying for a position that we didn't even know, that wasn't even there. Coach Obradovic put us into our positions and then it was easier for me and him to co-exist and be successful."

Apart from Mike James, Monaco also counted on several players who leveled up their game and helped the team get wins. But leading a talented team can be a tricky venture and the former Suns and Nets player explains the reasons.

"I think you're never going to keep everybody happy. Somebody is always going to get less love, depending on the game and on what's going on. But that's also when we struggle because sometimes I'm going up the court like, 'OK, he hasn't got the ball in a minute', but then you force-feed him the ball or run a play for him a couple of times and he's not in as much rhythm.

You don't really get no points out of that possession and then your offense is kind of stagnant. So, just trying to share the wealth sometimes can be negative. But, sometimes, everybody gets in rhythm and then it looks amazing because we have so many good people."

One of the season's highlights was when Kevin Durant, James' former teammate at the Brooklyn Nets, visited Monaco and Piraeus to watch Games 4 and 5 of the playoff series featuring the 2021 EuroCup winners and Olympiacos. The Reds took the ticket to the Final Four, but Durant got to experience some unique moments, especially in Greece. 

"It was cool," James said.

"A lot of my friends came over. He just happens to be a more noticeable friend than everybody else. But we had a thing: whoever's season ended first, the other one was going to go to the game. His season ended before mine. So, he came over."

James adds that Durant is "just a fan of basketball in general. He kind of watches basketball. More people than you think actually reach out and talk about what games they watch and things like that."

Having just finished his tenth season as a pro and as he's approaching 32, James has already started making some thoughts about his retirement.

"I enjoyed it. I like basketball, so that always gets me through. The long seasons aren't my specialty, of course, but it's enjoyable. It's basketball, something that I love to do, but as I'm getting older, I'm looking more and more at retirement. I'm looking forward to it a little bit more than I used to," he admitted. 

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Kevin Durant

Kevin  Durant
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Position: SF
Age: 33
Height: 211 cm
Weight: 107 kg
Birth place: Washington, United States of America