Antawn Jamison is joining up with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to chase a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jamison will sign a one-year deal with the Lakers, a person with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Lakers hadn’t announced the move.
The 36-year-old forward will sign for the veteran’s minimum salary, likely bolstering the Lakers’ woeful bench with scoring and veteran leadership while pursuing the first championship ring in a career largely spent as the best player on bad teams.
He won’t have that problem with the Lakers, who will have Bryant and newcomer Nash in their backcourt flanked by two elite 7-footers — although their identities will depend on whether Los Angeles’ apparent efforts to land Dwight Howard are successful. Jamison also will be reunited with coach Mike Brown, who was in charge of the Cavaliers when Jamison was traded to Cleveland during the 2009-10 season.
Jamison had several suitors for his services, including his hometown Charlotte Bobcats, the Brooklyn Nets and the Golden State Warriors, his employer for his first five NBA seasons. For a player who has never advanced past the second round of the playoffs in 14 NBA seasons, the Lakers’ chance to contend apparently was too enticing to Jamison.
The Lakers are the fifth NBA team for Jamison, who averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds for an awful Cavs team last season despite shooting a career-low 40.3 percent. He is averaging an impressive 19.5 points per game in his career, never scoring fewer than 14.8 points per game since his rookie season with Golden State in 1999.
Jamison could be a huge upgrade to the Lakers’ bench, which repeatedly struggled to hold leads last season when the starters sat down. Matt Barnes was the Lakers’ top-scoring reserve with just 7.8 points per game, and Los Angeles had the NBA’s lowest-scoring bench with just 20.5 points per game.
Jamison has been a reserve just once in his career, but he was good at it: During his only season with the Dallas Mavericks in 2003-04, he was selected the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year while playing alongside Nash.
Metta World Peace is likely to be the Lakers’ starting small forward, although Brown brought World Peace off the bench early last year. Jamison could back up World Peace and Pau Gasol in a job that would resemble Lamar Odom’s responsibilities for the Lakers’ last championship team in 2010.
Jamison generates his steady scoring from an arsenal of herky-jerky, off-balance shots, including an impressive ability to shoot underhanded. He’s also a remarkably consistent 3-point shooter — hitting between 34 and 35 percent of his attempts in each of the past five seasons — joining a team that needs perimeter scoring.
Bryant knows all about Jamison’s unique skills: They were Pacific Division rivals early in their careers, and they engaged in one of the most scintillating scoring duels in NBA history on Dec. 6, 2000, in Oakland. Jamison and Bryant scored 51 points apiece — Bryant’s career high at the time — as Golden State beat the Lakers in overtime.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak hasn’t commented on the club’s interest level in Howard, speaking instead about his interest in supplementing his addition of Nash with a handful of veteran bench players. The Lakers will be well over the luxury-tax threshold, forcing Kupchak to seek out new additions willing to put team success ahead of financial rewards.