When Dominic James hit the ground after crashing into the side of the backboard on a tip slam attempt, oohs and ahhs came out of the collective mouth of the Cox Pavillion crowd Tuesday night. James didn’t give them more than a second to react though, bouncing back up nearly as quickly as he went down.
Rising to great heights is not new to Dominic James.
James athleticism wowed fans in college. He earned a spot on last year’s Milwaukee Bucks summer squad, only to get injured before the team left for Las Vegas. James would later get an invite to training camp, but left early after signing a deal with a team in Turkey. With Mersin, James averaged 14.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, leading the team in assists. More impressive than the assists though, the 54.3% James shot from the field. An unreal number for a guy who only twice cracked 40% shooting in four years at Marquette.
That shooting percentage raises eye brows even more when one recalls James annual struggles with his jump shot in college. Often landing in a different spot than he shot, no one ever saw James as much more than a point guard that could attack the rim and find teammates. A player with that skill set and James size can thrive in college, but with the increased athleticism and length inside in the NBA. James said it simply was about putting in more work that led to his improvements.
“I was just putting in work,” James said of his improvements. “It’s a different game over there, I just had to focus in more. I dialed in and handled myself like a professional. I just put the work in and it paid off. My percentages went up, that’s just hard work and dedication.”
But Europe didn’t just allow James to iron out some of the wrinkles in his game. James spoke fondly of his time in Europe, saying it was a better move for him than the D-League.
“Yeah, I thought it was better for me,” he said. “There was a lot of growth and maturity on and off the court. From a financial perspective, you get paid a little more there than the D-League. Sometimes you maybe miss out on a look then. It’s all about the player and what’s best for you and your family.”
“It’s more half court over there,” said James when I asked him about the differences he saw between Europe and America. I mentioned the struggles that Brandon Jennings had adapting to that game. “Yeah, Brandon for instance, he’s an up tempo style player likes to get out there in transition and run. Over there, it’s a lot different. You got to make some adjustments. Obviously guys like me and Brandon we like to get up and down the floor, get easy baskets. You got to do what they want over there. It kind of hinders our skills sometimes, but you gotta make those adjustments.”
Through three games in Vegas, James has done well in building on his strong European season. Coming off the bench behind a struggling Paul Delaney, James has averaged 4.7 points while chipping in three assists against two turnovers a contest. James has gotten into some trouble with the same apparent over-dribbling that people often complained about at Marquette, but much of that has seemed to be a general uncertainty amongst teammates about where to be. Summer leaguers don’t have a ton of time together and communication isn’t always the easiest thing to get down in such a short while. James has been successful in using his quickness to his advantage on defense and it’s helped him to one steal per game and some impressive ball pressuring.
With a rather significant opening at the end of the bench in Milwaukee, James could very well earn an invite to training camp if he prefers that over Europe. Luke Ridnour’s signing with Minnesota leaves the Bucks sans backup point guard, with Royal Ivey a free agent after spending the second half last year with Milwaukee. If James can take his summer game from it’s “okay” level now and finish with a strong three game stretch, a camp invite seems a likely scenario.