Bernard James wasn’t the first pick of Thursday night’s NBA Draft in New Jersey. James didn’t even go in the first round. But the Florida State power forward stole the show when his name was called with the 33rd overall pick.
James, who will head to the Dallas Mavericks as part of a draft night trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, wasn’t expecting to be a lottery pick but he attended the event at the Prudential Center anyway.
Following his name being called by NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, the crowd started chanting U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
James, 27, served in the United States Air Force for six years before attending FSU. The crowd was simply showing their appreciation for his service. James nodded and thanked the crowd as he made his way to the stage.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban then tweeted: “I love that kid !! USA !!”
James also delivered an impressive interview answer when he was asked about teams being concerned about drafting a 27-year-old rookie.
“I’ve been playing a lot less years than most of the guys in the draft, so my body is still fresh, my knees are good, everything,” he responded. “And the fact that I’m 27, I’ve had a career before, I know what it is to be a professional. I’m going to come to work every day and make the best of this opportunity.”
James [6-10, 230 pounds] played two years at Florida State, averaging 10.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks last season.
The trade included the Mavericks sending the 17th overall pick [Tyler Zeller] and Kelenna Azubuike to the Cavs in exchange for the No. 24 overall selection [Jared Cunningham] and picks 33 and 34.
The Mavs used No. 34 – the fourth pick of the second round – on Marquette small forward Jae Crowder, a 6-6, 242-pounder that averaged 17.5 points and 8.4 rebounds during his senior season.
Dallas drafted another Marquette player later in the second round, shooting guard Darius Johnson-Odom. But the 55th overall selection was sold to the Los Angeles Lakers, according to multiple reports.