Former Florida State forward Bernard James was selected Thursday in the second round (No. 33 overall) of the NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he's on his way to the Dallas Mavericks once a trade is approved by the league office.
A 6-10, 240-pounder, James averaged 10.8 points and 8.1 rebounds this past year for the Seminoles while shooting 60.1 percent from the field, plus he was also a force on defense by blocking 2.3 shots per game. He scored 19 points, had nine rebounds and blocked three shots in FSU's 66-63 victory over St. Bonaventure in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, although he only went for 12 points and five boards -- he did manage to swat three shots again -- in the season-ending 62-56 loss to Cincinnati in Round 3.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, James joins a Dallas squad that won the NBA title in 2010-11 behind a historic playoff effort from Dirk Nowitzki, but the Mavericks battled a championship hangover throughout 2011-12 and were ousted in the first round of the postseason by the Oklahoma City Thunder. James was part of a three-for-one deal between Dallas and Cleveland, as the Mavs got James, Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham (Round 1, No. 24 overall) and Marquette forward Jae Crowder (2, 33) and the Cavs received North Carolina center Tyler Zeller (1, 17). While the Air Force veteran might not have enough of a low-post game to be a consistent scorer in the pros, James can surely help a team that finished 11th in rebounding and tied for 14th in blocked shots as as rotation player off the bench.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who is known as a hard-nosed guy -- military-like by NBA standards -- that demands a lot of his players, knows what he now has in James, both on the floor and off the floor.
"We're very proud to have a guy that served in Iraq and served our country," Carlisle said. "He seems like a terrific kid. He's an athletic shot blocker who played on the best defensive team in college basketball at Florida State. He's a guy that can protect the rim and protect the paint."
James will likely battle for minutes with Brandan Wright and Ian Mahinmi, who were the primary reserves behind former league and finals MVP Nowitzki at power forward and Brendan Haywood at center, respectively, last season.
An appreciative crowd at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, emphatically chanted "U-S-A!" when the 27-year-old James was chosen.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
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