Lakers forward Antawn Jamison accepts his role on the bench if it means more wins for the team.
By JOE McDONNELL FS West
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Ask anyone connected with the NBA, and they'll tell you what a great guy Antawn Jamison is — in bad times as well as good.
Most of his career has been spent with under .500 teams, and tiring from the lack of team success, he took about a $13.7 million pay cut to sign with the Lakers. He also gave up the guarantee of playing time he would have had with many other clubs in order to chase his championship dreams.
After a slow start under Mike Brown, once Mike D'Antoni took over, Jamison experienced a Laker rebirth, averaging 15.8 points during a seven-game stretch. He started, he came in off the bench and he was productive. It looked like Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had acquired another impact player during the offseason to go with the trade for Dwight Howard and the signing of Steve Nash.
Then — seemingly out of the blue — Jamison's rejuvenation came to an abrupt halt.
It’s gotten so bad for the power forward that he and his career 19.2 points per game average can no longer even get a minute of playing time, sitting out five games in a row for what he said was the first time he can remember.
Following last Friday night’s DNP-Coach's decision, the normally affable Jamison had had enough. He told reporters that D’Antoni didn’t even explain why he was dropped from the rotation.
"My only thing is let me know why," Jamison told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't think you go from starting and 30-something minutes to not in the rotation whatsoever. And not explaining to me what exactly happened, that's the toughest thing. There's nothing you can do but be positive and support your teammates. The only reason I came here was they said I was going to play and to win a championship."
D'Antoni — as is his style — played it down after Sunday's practice, saying there was no problem between him and Jamison.
"He's the most professional, nicest guy and good (player)," D'Antoni said. "He didn't do anything to get out of the rotation. I'm just going a little different way. I thought Metta (World Peace) would give us a little more toughness and defense, and that's his role.
"I know you (reporters) all have a job to do, and if you go to a player after a game and he hasn't played, he's going to be upset. And stuff comes out. But we don't have any problem that I know of."
Jamison didn’t blame the media for his comments — quite the opposite. He said he shouldn't have said anything and that he was ready to put it behind him.
"The timing wasn't good," Jamison said candidly after Sunday's workout about his statements on Friday. "Of course you want to be out there, and you want to compete. (But) the most important thing — and the reason that I came here — was to win. And we’re winning, which overrules anything. I’m a competitor and I want to compete, but I came here to not only win, but (also) to win a championship. If that calls for me to be a cheerleader, or to coach some of the guys I'm sitting on the bench next to, I'm willing to do that.
"I've had all the individual success you could possibly have. But most importantly, it's about being there for your teammates and winning a championship. I'd rather be in L.A. winning basketball games with a chance to contend, instead of being in some other city (with a record) at 5 and 30.
"It's been tough, but I'm still enjoying myself. It feels good to come in and start winning. That's the most important thing right now."
Anytime you mention the words "championship" and "ring" to Jamison, his face starts beaming with anticipation and hope. Nothing had changed as of Sunday.
"It's the only thing that drives me, the only thing that pushes me," he said. "It's the only reason why I'm still doing what I'm doing, because I have yet to experience that. That's the only thing that pretty much wakes me up (and) makes me want to go to work.
"If it was to happen for me, it would be the best thing that ever happened in my career. If it doesn't, it wasn't meant for it to happen. It's important to me.
"It's the only thing I have left to do."
And maybe to get D'Antoni to tell him why he's not playing anymore.