Lakers introduce Antawn Jamison
A 14-year veteran, Jamison has enjoyed the individual success that comes with being a two-time All-Star and a Sixth Man of the Year. And he's made plenty of money over the course of his career. But realistic opportunities to compete for a championship have been few and far between. As the key reserve for a revamped Lakers squad, the chance to win a title awaits, and Jamison can't wait to get started.
In the past, I'm probably second or first option that coaches are trying to scheme against. Trying to find a way to get the ball out of his hands or make things difficult for him. In this situation, I might be the last guy he's even thinking about. For that to open, I'm definitely eager for those scenarios to happen.” -- Antawn Jamison
"To be a part of a great organization, great teammates, great coaching staff, it's definitely a great day for me and hopefully for the Lakers as well," Jamison said.
Jamison hasn't participated in the playoffs since 2010 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a postseason campaign that ended on a sour note and ultimately triggered LeBron James' decision to join the Miami Heat.
Jamison joined that squad with visions of being part of a perennial contender, then found himself part of a rebuilding project. The abrupt 180 left him wondering if he might ever again experience a deep playoff run.
"Those (last) two years in Cleveland have been tough," Jamison said. "My biggest thing before I even got there was, I just wanted a chance, because I'd never really had a chance to be a part of a team that can contend for a championship or really have a legitimate opportunity. Then I got to Cleveland and it was only for two months. I just felt like, well, that's probably the best chance I will possibly get.
"The last couple seasons, there have been opportunities where I could have been traded, but it didn't happen. I just stayed focused, stayed positive."
Whether through the power of positivity or simple good luck, Jamison is now exactly where he wants to be. With a starting lineup of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace, the Lakers' potential for greatness is readily apparent, and becoming part of such a deep roster is almost surreal.
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"In the past, I'm probably the second or first option that coaches are trying to scheme against," Jamison said. "Trying to find a way to get the ball out of his hands or make things difficult for him. In this situation, I might be the last guy he's even thinking about. For that to open, I'm definitely eager for those scenarios to happen.
"Even by saying that, you still have to be prepared to knock down those shots and knock down those opportunities."
Jamison's acclimation period will hopefully be sped along through familiarity, having spent the 2004 season in Dallas alongside new point guard Nash and half season under coach Mike Brown in Cleveland.
Jamison expressed eagerness to reacquaint himself with both. He praised Nash as "probably the best pure point guard since John Stockton," and looked forward to cashing in on the easy looks created by his former teammate.
"I just stuck out my hand and the ball was there," Jamison said. "Definitely a point guard who makes your team better, who understands the game. That's a luxury to have."
Jamison's stint with Brown was admittedly more chaotic, having joined the front-running team as part of a midseason trade. The forward didn't have enough time to grow comfortable with his role, and was especially self-conscious of not rocking the boat. Working with Brown from the outset, Jamison expects to be "pretty much myself," making it easier to digest the coach's game plan.
"Just the short period of time we had in Cleveland, he expects so much out of you," Jamison said of Brown. "The attention to detail is at an ultimate high. I've played thousands of games. This is probably my 12th or 13th coach I've had throughout my career and I've never been a part of a coach with his attention to detail, film sessions. I mean, he does his homework and he has his team prepared... Everybody has to be accountable on both ends of the floor in that locker room."
As for teaming up with Bryant, Jamison said the appeal didn't really require an explanation.
"I don't think (you) really need to say anything about what he brings to the table," Jamison said. "His determination. Just to be able to say you played with a guy of his caliber is unbelievable... As an opponent, trying to get your game plan ready for Kobe was the most difficult thing to do, and to say you'll be playing alongside this guy, it's an unbelievable feeling. In my eyes, since I've been playing the game, definitely one of the greatest to ever play."
Jamison's spirits were high enough to laugh after Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak noted how the team features two seven-footers to protect the basket, a reference to Jamison's career-long reputation as a less-than-stellar defender.
The forward took the ribbing in stride, but also pledged not to be a charity case defensively.
"I understand the importance of not being that weak link," insisted Jamison. "I understand the importance of defensive teams wins championships. I definitely have improved, and not as much a negative on the defensive end early on in my career... The better defensive team you are, the better your chances are. Not to knock any of the teams I've been on, but as you get older, you understand the importance of it.
"You understand how to put yourself in better positions, not get blown by defensively or not be reliable on the defensive end. I'll tell you one thing. I'm gonna work hard and I'm gonna give you my all. You won't be able to say he's the weak link to this defensive team or to this puzzle. Whether it's offensively, defensively or in the locker room, I always found a way to get it done and I expect the same thing when this season gets started as well."
Being hyperaware of the importance of every game will only help raise that defensive onus.
"It's the ultimate motivation you can have," Jamison said. "To know every game counts, to know there is going to be games after 82 (regular season games), to know that the ultimate goal is to add another banner to the Staples Center, another trophy to this organization. I mean, what other kind of motivation would you want?
"For the type of career I've had, as an individual, it hasn't been bad, but as a team standpoint, it hasn't been good. And to come into this situation and know that every game, every practice, every film session, this is what it's all about. To be in this situation for me, I've been through the bad, now it's time to be a part of things that really matter."