James takes a pass on passing

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

Raptors guard Mike James has heard the criticism, but he will apologize to no one.

Those who have followed the Raptors even slightly this season understand that the team's starting point guard is having a career year, averaging 19.1 points and almost six assists per game.

However, in recent weeks, there have been suggestions that James has, late in games, been shooting the ball too often from long range, early in the shot clock while not looking to pass the ball off to a teammate who may be in a better spot to shoot.

There have even been suggestions that his stock as a potential free agent this summer -- once sky-high -- has fallen recently because of his tendency to jack the ball before looking for the open man. In other words, he is not playing like a true point guard.

James believes that kind of talk is a load of hogwash. He insists he does look for the good pass, but admits that there are times, particularly in the fourth quarter during close games, when he is the man who can win the game, even if that means shooting the ball a lot.

He provided an illustration of that in Toronto's 98-94 loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday, when he went 3-for-10 from the field in the fourth quarter.

"I have a takeover mentality," James said yesterday, following practice. "There are times when I have the ball in my hands and I believe in my heart, nine out of 10 times, I'm going to make the right play. (Wednesday) night, I was missing some shots that were going in and out for me, but those are shots that I normally make."

To his credit, James has recorded 12 and 10 assists, respectively, in his past two games.

But he said his increased assist numbers are not a result of a sudden will to pass the ball more.

"Guys are finally making some shots for me," he said, half-jokingly. "It was tough before. I'd throw them a pass and they would miss. Jose (Calderon) would give them the same exact pass, and (they would sink it).

"It was like: 'What am I doing wrong?' When you pass the ball and you have guys knocking down shots, it's easy to get assists."

Some may consider those comments a cop-out. James does not.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinion about me," he said. "I'm a playmaker. I make plays. It don't matter what you call me. Call me whatever you want to call me. Just call me.

"Call me Mike. Call me Mike James," he added, with a laugh. "Call my agent. I'm a player. I go on the court and try to help my team win."

The Raptors will need all of James if they hope to defeat Steve Nash and the 47-23 Phoenix Suns at the Air Canada Centre tonight. The Canadian is having another MVP-type season, averaging a NBA-leading 10.5 assists, as well as 19.5 points.


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