ST. CATHARINES -- Eric Williams paused yesterday when asked about his new teammate, Mike James.
The two played with the Boston Celtics during the 2003-04 season and became good friends. Needless to say, Williams is thrilled to have James back on his side.
"He's a spiritual guy," Williams said. "He just one of those guys you like to be around."
Williams was not using the word in a religious context, although James certainly is that -- one of his future goals is to establish a Christian Bible School. James is a survivor, Williams explained.
A kid from a tough inner city neighbourhood who made the right choices in life to become a solid athlete and citizen.
But more than just his ability to shoot three-pointers and play defence, it is James' leadership skills that are going to most benefit the Raptors, Williams said.
"Everything he has, he has worked hard for," Williams said. "That's the type of character you want. Nobody gave him anything. That's something for our young guys to look at. There was no yellow brick road for him."
When Williams was traded to Toronto last December in the Vince Carter deal, the Newark, N.J., native was not happy, and let his bitterness affect his game and his attitude.
This season, however, the 11-year veteran has vowed to do whatever it takes to help the Raptors win. He believes he and James will give the young club more than enough leadership.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans this summer, James rented a truck, purchased a load of supplies and drove from Houston to Louisiana.
That's the kind of spirituality Williams alluded to.
"I was surprised when I heard Rafer was traded," Williams said.
"But when I heard if was for Mike James, I thought that's just what this team needs. He is one of those guys you can depend on."