Jamison: NBA players more unified than in ’98

Antawn Jamison was stunned in 1998 when he stumbled into the

last NBA lockout as a rookie. He found the players disorganized,

uninformed and unprepared for what lay ahead.

”You had guys saying one thing and you had other guys going

behind their back and saying another thing,” Jamison said. ”The

owners knew then they eventually would buckle.”

Now one of the few players still active who experienced the last

work stoppage, the Cleveland Cavaliers veteran forward senses a

different atmosphere.

It’s why just as the NBA was officially announcing Thursday

night it was locking out its players, Jamison predicted the labor

dispute will either be settled before games are missed – or the

entire season will be lost.

”I think in ’98-99, we didn’t think it would be a long, drawn

out process,” Jamison said after speaking to children at a school

in his hometown. ”Just the unity, the guys understanding what

we’re facing and what we’re up against is totally different than

what it was when I first got into the league.”

Nearing the end of his career and due one of the largest

salaries in the league next season – about $15 million – Jamison

would have plenty to lose if next season is wiped out. But Jamison

insists there’s unity from the rookie draft picks to the league’s

stars.

”You’ve got the LeBron Jameses and the Dwyane Wades and all

those guys who are really taking a stand and being a face of this

movement,” Jamison said. ”I think back then we really didn’t have

the superstars that were together as the superstars are now. I

think it’s making a difference.”

Jamison said the NBA Players Association is already setting up

gyms around the country where players will be able to work out and

get instruction and treatment. He said players are constantly

getting updates from the union and there was a strong push that

started ”three or four years ago” to get players to save money

and prepare for the worst.

”Let’s be honest, there are going to be guys who did it and

there are going to be guys who didn’t,” Jamison said. ”You’re

going to hear stories about guys that didn’t save their money and

so forth, but I think collectively guys have done a good job being

prepared for this lockout.”

Jamison indicated that wasn’t the case after he left North

Carolina a year early and was the fourth overall pick in the draft

before being traded to Golden State.

”You were on your own,” Jamison said. ”We weren’t prepared

for it and I didn’t know what to do.”

Jamison said he worked out at North Carolina, but when an

agreement finally was reached in January, he wasn’t prepared for

the rushed start a 50-game season. It showed, as he averaged just

9.6 points before doubling that total in the full season that

followed.

”It was probably the worst ever. I wasn’t mentally prepared for

it,” Jamison said of his rookie year. ”It was just one of those

things that was a tough process and it definitely affected me

throughout that season.”

Jamison feels this labor dispute will be different, and insists

players have the will to sit out an entire season instead of giving

in to the owners’ demands of salary rollbacks and a hard salary

cap.

”I understand when they say they’re losing money and so forth.

I get that,” Jamison said. ”We said we’d give a certain amount of

that money back. But some owners have to take the onus on

themselves because they put themselves in a situation where they’re

overpaying for certain guys.

”We both have to look in the mirror and say, ‘We both have to

take responsibility for this.”’