Mike James, who was signed by the New Orleans Pelicans on January 13th to a two-way contract, has asked for his release from the team according to David Pick, a noted international basketball reporter.
Source: Mike James has requested to be waived by New Orleans to return to Panathinaikos on a deal for the rest of the season. Official soon.— David Pick (@IAmDPick) February 9, 2018
While at first glance this seems highly unusual, this particular situation is not. James’ days of remaining in New Orleans and earning a better salary were numbered as he was approaching his 45-day limit of remaining on the NBA level. Per rule of two-way contracts, a player must return to the G-League once that ceiling is reached, and with it, enjoy a smaller salary of $75K per season — as opposed to the possible sum of $204K for spending the maximum 45 days with a professional team.
When James signed with the Pelicans, there likely existed a mutual understanding that James would never spend any time in the G-League. Read carefully Shams Charania’s initial tweet regarding the James signing in New Orleans.
Sources: Free agent guard Mike James is signing a two-way NBA contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. James’ remaining two-way days will take him past the trade deadline and All-Star break with the Pelicans.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 13, 2018
Shams observed the length of his NBA eligibility, as though the expectation was James would stay on the Pelicans roster until reaching his 45-day limit.
While James signing a two-way deal gives the illusion that he’ll be spending time in the G League with the Northern Arizona Suns, that’s likely not going to happen.
A source tells Ridiculous Upside that James will begin the first 45 days of the regular season with the Phoenix Suns where he could receive as much as $200,000, the maximum amount allowed for players under two-way deals that just spend time in the NBA. After those 45 days, the Suns will have an option to convert James to a standard NBA contract for the remainder of the season, otherwise he’ll become a free agent.
James could have remained with the Pelicans until February 27th and for a total of seven more games, but he has decided against it to join Panathinaikos of the EuroLeague. Apparently, his heart is in Greece — oh, we’re quite versed with that song and dance, right?
Mike James turned down $300K a month in China and is leaving the NBA to earn less in Greece. Followed his heart, bleeds PAO green. pic.twitter.com/S0aDCkwDLI— David Pick (@IAmDPick) February 9, 2018
The New Orleans Pelicans are now left with Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo as natural point guards. Will General Manager Dell Demps seek to add a third, perhaps in the buyout market, or make due with the remaining duo and rely on a Chris Finch-installed offense that isn’t dependent on a dominant ball handler?