Since the Mavs drafted him in 2012, Bernard "Sarge" James has been either a rotation player or a bench-warming emergency big, depending on the quality of the other big men on the roster. Sarge was arguably one of the two or three best bigs on the roster his rookie year, competing with Chris Kaman and Elton Brand, but the Mavs have worked to bolster their front court depth since then. As a result, Sarge's playing time has dwindled, until finally this year he was the final roster cut before the season started.
I still don't necessarily agree with the decision to keep Charlie Villanueva over Sarge, since the Mavs hadn't yet traded for Rondo and weren't desperately in need of shooters. But I understand that Dallas expected much more from Greg Smith than they got, making Sarge expendable in their minds.
After being released from Dallas, Sarge played a couple of games for the Texas Legends for a bit before taking his talents to China. He performed extremely well, averaging a double-double (and multiple blocks per game) in both the D-League and China.
And so when the Mavs found their front court depleted by trade, injury, and a lack of production from Greg Smith, the former airman was brought back into the fold, albeit only on a trial basis. In his first game back, he played 22 minutes, and put up 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Over the course of 2 10-day contracts, Sarge averaged 4.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks, and even started a couple of games while Tyson Chandler was out due to injury.
By being the most reliable backup big during a tumultuous time, Sarge proved himself yet again, and Dallas signed him to the roster for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, Dallas signed Amar'e Stoudemire shortly after Sarge's first 10-day deal, and once the Mavs bigs got healthy, Sarge's minutes disappeared.
Because the Rondo trade wrecked the Mavs' offensive spacing and made shooters infinitely more valuable to the team, it became difficult for Rick Carlisle to play Bernard James over more offensively minded bigs like Amar'e and Charlie V. It's no coincidence that Charlie V didn't have any role on the team until after that trade. Sarge did get some playing time in the final stretch of games, but that was largely because the No. 7 seed was locked up and Rick wanted to rest Tyson and Dirk. Sarge played fewer than two minutes in the playoffs.
I really like Bernard James. I think Dallas would have done well to play him as Tyson's backup for about 10 minutes a game. Playing Dirk with Amar'e or Charlie V was a disaster every time Rick went with it, and Sarge is a more than competent defensive center to pair with any of those offensive players. Alas, it appears that Dallas will never see Sarge as anything more than an emergency big.
Going forward, it's anyone's guess whether Sarge returns to Dallas. He's already 30, so it isn't like he has upside. I would be perfectly happy with Sarge as Tyson's (or DeAndre Jordan's) primary backup, but I don't think Rick Carlisle sees it the same way. However, Sarge is a hard worker, moves well on defense, and can be relied on for rebounds and blocks when he is given minutes. Hopefully some team realizes that and gives him a shot despite his age.