Raps' James goes to bat for Alvin

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Chalk up another reason to keep Mike James.

One of the biggest debates these days is whether the Raptors should spend big bucks to sign James to a long-term contract this summer.

A couple of months ago, that seemed like a no-brainer. The Amityville, N.Y., native is having a career season with the Raptors, averaging 19.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists (18th in the NBA). He also bonded with young superstar Chris Bosh, which is a good thing considering that the organization wants to sign Bosh to a long-term deal.

But in recent weeks, James' stock seems to have fallen, in part because of his comments on how much money he would like ($6-9 million US per season has been bandied around). He also seems to be more interested in scoring than setting up his teammates. James vehemently denies that and, indeed, has averaged nine assists in his past five games. But the fifth-year NBAer recently exhibited a side of his personality that has sent his stock on the rise again.

James approached Mitchell and asked if the coach would consider putting fellow guard Alvin Williams in the final seven games of the season -- even if that meant less playing time for himself. Williams missed all of last season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee, and most of this season. Still, he has worked hard everyday in practice and has said, despite not being 100%, that he would love the chance to play.

Mitchell, however, believes it would be a mistake to play Williams until he is 100%. But the coach added that he appreciates James looking out for his teammate.

"Anytime your players think about their teammates, it's a good thing. That tells me we're going in the right direction in building a team," Mitchell said. "You got to care about each other, more than you care about yourself. That's what I wanted since I've been here.

"Because if they're all thinking about what's best for their teammates, we're going to be a much better team."

Mitchell said he hopes Williams will be able to play in the summer league and get healthy for next season.


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