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Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Good Charlotte? For Jamison, it would be

By Marc Stein
ESPN.com

Antawn Jamison planned to build a big new house in his new city, then scrapped the plans.

It felt more right, he later explained, to plant those roots in his actual hometown.

"I'm going to build a house in Charlotte," Jamison said at the time, "because I know I'm going back there eventually."

Eventually?

Eventually, he might not just be going back to Charlotte for summers.

Jamison made the decision not to get too cozy in Dallas because his name started popping up in trade rumors about five minutes into his first season with the Mavericks. As most of the free world knows, Dallas was prepared to deal Jamison to Portland as the feature piece in a trade for Rasheed Wallace ... and 'Sheed's instantaneous defensive impact with Detroit should pretty much confirm why.

He's making Ben Wallace better, so it's no stretch to suggest that 'Sheed's presence in Dallas would have led to a noticeable improvement from a team that could stand to improve a tad defensively.

Onto the next trade scenario, then.

The next one in play for the North Carolina-ex could well involve the expansion Bobcats. Bernie Bickerstaff has made it clear that he isn't interested in absorbing veterans with long-term contracts in the expansion draft, but this potential swap is tied to the regular draft. The Mavericks have no intention of leaving Jamison unprotected, but don't be surprised if they offer the Charlotte native, who turns 28 in June, in exchange for the No. 4 overall pick.

Don't be surprised, furthermore, if the Bobcats strongly consider making the swap.

Golden State has already made the determination that Jamison is not a fully fledged franchise player, but the likelihood is Charlotte won't find one at No. 4 in this (or any modern-day) draft. As a former Tar Heel who's active in the Charlotte community -- and who's sure to put up numbers if you build an offense around him, especially in the East -- Jamison makes considerable sense for the Bobcats in their infancy. According to league sources, this Charlotte regime is very conscious of doing whatever is necessary to gain some distance from the messy legacy of the George Shinn era. Giving the locals daily access to Jamison would be a fine start, since it figures to be a while before they can give the locals a winning team.

The Bobcats' hesitation would stem from absorbing the bulk of Jamison's max contract, especially when they'll have a first-season salary ceiling that equates to 66 2/3 percent of the full salary cap. Jamison's $12,584,688 million salary next season would eat up roughly a third of that figure.

Antawn Jamison
Jamison's community work in Charlotte makes him especially attractive for the Bobcats.
It also remains to be seen if the Mavericks will see someone they like enough at No. 4 to make a hard trade push. Draft experts aren't terribly optimistic, three months out, that there will be anything close to another Chris Bosh waiting at No. 4 this June.

Then again ...

Dallas is already well-acquainted with Kosta Perovic, the young Serbian center who -- if you believe Vlade Divac, Kosta's boss at Partizan Belgrade -- is a better prospect than Darko Milicic. Another possibility at No. 4 is Pavel Podkolzine, the mammoth Russian. Podkolzine is playing in Italy after pulling out of last June's draft at the 11th hour, and the 7-foot-5 center is apparently playing well. Well enough that there will be no need for second thoughts this time, because he's sure to go in the lottery.

Yet another possibility, of course, is that the Mavericks send Jamison to Charlotte for No. 4 and find a third team interested in the pick, to bring Dallas something it likes even better than a big youngster.

Jamison will be making his first trip to the playoffs in June, in his sixth NBA season. Dallas doesn't regret dealing Nick Van Exel for Jamison -- believing that it moved Van Exel at the height of his value -- but it must also concede that Jamison and Dirk Nowitzki haven't clicked much better than Nowitzki and Antoine Walker. Barring another long postseason run that's difficult to envision at the minute, it's a safe bet that the Mavericks will be re-exploring all their trade options as soon as their season ends.

There is considerable evidence to suggest that Jamison going to Charlotte in exchange for 2004's No. 4 selection, as a former No. 4 overall pick himself, is a viable option.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.