|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers forward Antawn Jamison apologized Sunday for comments made after the Lakers' 104-87 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday and expressed his commitment to the team despite his recent lack of playing time.
"Really it's just a lot of frustration the last couple games but the most important thing here is us winning," said Jamison, who has received five straight Did Not Play-Coach's Decision and the Lakers have gone 4-1 in that stretch. "I understand the situation (Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni) is in where he has a rotation that's been doing that and I have to accept that. There's not going to be no rocking the boat here with myself or demanding a trade.
"I'm here for the long haul and I'm here to help this team win a championship. So, if the opportunity comes up again, I just have to be patient and be ready for that opportunity to present itself. Until then, we're winning. That's the most important thing and we're doing it at a pretty good level right now, so I'm just pulling for my teammates and smiling. It's tough not playing, but most importantly, the reason why I'm here is to win."
The 36-year-old Jamison said he and D'Antoni "aired things out" since the Portland win. Jamison was averaging 7.2 points on 43.9 percent shooting and 4.5 rebounds in 20.0 minutes per game before D'Antoni chose to phase him out of the rotation.
"I just told him I don't want this to be a distraction because it really shouldn't be one," Jamison said. "I'm just kind of disappointed in myself that I kind of expressed my frustration the way I did, but I'm human. We move forward and most importantly we got a game here in two days (against Philadelphia on New Year's Day). Whether it's me being a cheerleader smiling or running up and down the court, I'm going to do everything I can to be positive and make sure that we continue to win games."
Jamison told the L.A. Daily News after the Portland game that his benching didn't "make sense. They're pretty much telling me my services are no longer needed."
D'Antoni said he understood why Jamison was frustrated, citing the forward's competitive nature.
"He's a great guy and he's a professional," D'Antoni said. "He understands that I'm taking a different way to go. Nothing he didn't do. He's going to keep getting ready and it will come back in his favor. He gave us some great minutes when he played, it's just that as a coach you try to figure out the puzzle. Sometimes the pieces fit, they don't fit, you like this, you like that without degrading anybody. He's great, but right now we're going in this direction and he'll be ready when we go in another direction or somebody gets hurt. Opportunities will come up."
D'Antoni added, "There is absolutely nothing there," in regards to any controversy being stirred in the team by Jamison's reaction.
Lakers captain Kobe Bryant called Jamison one of the Lakers' leaders "in his own right" and praised how he's handled his limited playing time.
"He's out there working after practice getting shots up and that's a great example for the rest of our guys," Bryant said. "It's one thing to lead from the front by playing a lot of minutes, but there's also leadership from the backside which is not playing a lot of minutes but still being a leader by being a professional and showing your unselfishness for the group. I think that has an effect on the rest of the team."
Jamison averaged just 3.0 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 5-for-22 from the field (22.7 percent) in the five games he played prior to being benched, and the Lakers went just 2-3 in that span. Jordan Hill, who had been a previous victim of two DNP-CDs from D'Antoni, has been the primary beneficiary of Jamison sitting. Hill is averaging 7.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in 16.8 minutes in the Lakers' last four games.
"I didn't have the luxury of having a training camp or having even in mind during the summer who to bring in or tell (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak), 'That's good, that's not good,' or whatever," D'Antoni said. "I had to go through everybody and see if I see something. Again, I liked what I saw from him. I just liked a little bit better Jordan Hill right now because in my mind, I wanted to go small, but we might be better big and if that's the case, let's try the big for awhile and see where that goes."
For Jamison, a 15-year veteran who has only made the playoffs six times in his career and turned down more money and more years with Charlotte this past offseason to come to L.A., the chance to win a ring is keeping his personal goals in line with what's best for the team.
"I've been doing this for awhile and I shouldn't have expressed my frustration the way I did, especially after a win," Jamison said. "It kind of derailed us from what we're trying to do here. I know what (D'Antoni's coaching staff) are doing. They've been put in a tough situation from the get-go coming in the way they did in the middle of the season, as the season got started and so-on and so-forth, but we're here, us 14 guys out there on the court. We're here for one common bond. That's to win it all not to have any kind of distractions because I've been on teams where the little outside distractions can derail the bigger picture here and the bigger picture is to get this thing rolling in the right direction and try to win a championship."