Brooklyn Nets: What caused 2020-21 BK standout Mike James’ downfall overseas?

When either one of Kyrie Irving or James Harden missed time last season, the Brooklyn Nets‘ lack of depth in the backcourt was exposed.

It didn’t help that Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a partially-torn ACL just a couple games into the campaign, but the Nets really struggled to muster production from their backcourt when Harden was shelved with a hamstring injury.

How desperate were the Nets for reinforcements? Well, they flexed their European recruiting muscles and signed former NBA guard Mike James to a 10-day contract before ultimately signing him for the remainder of the season.

And it kind of worked!

Before the deal, though, James spent two seasons with CSKA Moscow in Russia and appeared in 41 games in 2020-21. James found tremendous success overseas, averaging 17.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists in just over 27 minutes per game in two-plus seasons with the Euroleague juggernaut.

While the thought of returning to the NBA and playing for a title contender was surely too enticing to pass up, why would James leave a situation where he was not only winning, but more often than not the best player on the court?

What caused former Nets PG Mike James’ downfall in Russia?

Apparently, James forced his way out of Russia due to a falling out with then-head coach Dimitris Itoudis, and he’s now entirely unattached.

The former Nets guard was suspended two times last season — once in January and two months later in March– following altercations with Itoudis. It’s unclear why James and Itoudis didn’t see eye-to-eye, but James assured the media shortly after signing with Brooklyn that it was strictly personal and not basketball related.

We get the feeling James still doesn’t want to unearth the details behind his beef with Itoudis. That’s commendable, though the longtime CSKA Moscow head coach wasn’t on the same wavelength as his former backcourt star.

While addressing the media ahead of the Euroleague Final Four in April, Itoudis lambasted James, claiming he was checked out mentally and not putting forth his best effort after they clashed off the court.

Was James at fault for his downfall overseas? It’d be foolish not to think he contributed to his own demise. There’s two sides to every story, and the 31-year-old seemingly has zero intention of telling the full version.

Though James was a productive player off the bench for the Nets, we can’t blame any fans who are disappointed by the lack of clarity in the backstory that expedited his move to Brooklyn in the first place.