Posted Oct 14 2010 6:15PM
Though the moments proved fleeting for Antawn Jamison, he did what few do when given the same chance.
Today, he doesn't sound bitter or upset by what went down in Cleveland. If anything, he's grateful. Approaching each game, even an otherwise meaningless preseason affair, with that ever-present grin on his grill, Jamison is one of those lucky guys who never seems to have a bad day.
"My biggest thing is I never had the opportunity to contend for a championship," Jamison said earlier this week. "Knowing that I had the best chance that I could possibly have last year ... I don't feel, 'Why me?'
"Now I just have to go out there knowing I had a chance, just have fun, keep doing the things I've been doing and trying to do everything possible to help this organization win."
That would appear to be a tall order for the post-LeBron James Cavaliers. At least winning at the extent so many have grown used to in Ohio.
Jamison realizes how close he was and how quickly it slipped away, while barely having time to find his place in the King's court. After being rescued from a miserable situation in Washington last February, Jamison joined a squad that wasn't as perfect as many perceived. LeBron's future was always looming overhead. Shaquille O'Neal wasn't healthy. Chemistry wasn't quite right.
Still, when the No. 1 seeds in the Eastern Conference and owners of the league's best record were ousted by Boston in the second round, Jamison didn't think for a second that that was it.
"That's the disappointing thing, knowing if we had more time together what could have happened," said Jamison, a two-time All-Star. "I'm biased to the point of being selfish as far as him staying, but it's part of the business and wish him the best of luck. But it does seem like it happened so quickly and it's over even quicker. In those situations, you just wish you had more time to develop more chemistry and get acclimated."
Him, of course, being LeBron. Jamison didn't have any insight to what was going on within James' inner circle this past summer. Jamison changed his phone number after the playoff loss and did his best to cut off from the NBA until after the Finals.
When people asked, he naturally assumed LeBron would stay. Then came "The Decision."
"Nobody saw that coming," Jamison said. "It happened. There's nothing I could have done about it or we could have done about it."
Jamison, 34, thought he might be traded after James' departure. Once he received assurances from management otherwise, he began preparing for his 13th season in the league.
Now he's the elder statesman on a team he's been with for eight months. No one is older or has more experience. Teammates go to Jamison for advice, which he freely shares. He's a leader, along with Anderson Varejao, Mo Williams and Anthony Parker.
"When I got traded, I didn't think I'd have that title," Jamison said. "I thought it would be a situation where I could relax and have some popcorn for five or 10 minutes a game."
He's put down the bag. The Cavaliers are going to need his 20 points and eight rebounds most nights. And if Byron Scott is counting on Jamison more than most, it's because the first-year Cavaliers coach knows he can.
"His leadership is going to be big in our locker room because we've got a young team," Scott said. "On the court I expect him to be Antawn. He understands our offense and what we're trying to do. I think he can get back to where he was a couple of years ago before the trade where he was making shots and scoring at almost 20 and 10 a game."
Jamison is back in his comfort zone in at least one respect. Scott runs the Princeton offense, which is the same system Jamison flourished in under former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan.
"He's the one guy right now I don't have to worry about, as far as the offense is concerned," Scott added. "He can help some of the other guys, which he's done in practice."
Jamison isn't asking for much. Just win more than lose, get into the playoffs and perhaps make a little noise once there. After witnessing a season that began with such high expectations get torpedoed by the Gilbert Arenas mess in Washington, he sees no reason to complain.
This is where the eternal optimist takes over.
"We're going to win," Jamison said. "I understand what people say as far as that guy is not on the team, but I'll take these guys and how they approach the game and how they pull for one another. They've got a chip on their shoulder. I have a chip on my shoulder. It's not that bad a situation.
"The biggest thing for this team is to transition from what they've been accustomed to the last six or seven years to now."
The locker room air has cleared. Whatever reminders of how business was once done are being wiped clean by a new coach, new general manager (Chris Grant) and a new perspective. Heck, even the uniforms are new.
Jamison is committed to being part of the new Cleveland. Barring a trade to the Heat or Lakers, Jamison likely won't get the same opportunity to chase a ring he had last season. The highest-paid Cavalier has two years remaining on his current deal at $28 million total. It's not the kind of contract that gets traded easily.
Jamison does have an understanding with the front office that if the Cavs falter and rebuilding is in order, they will try to move him into a better situation. If that doesn't happen, so be it.
He took his shot.
"My thing was to say before it was all said and done, I had a chance," Jamison said. "I can actually sit here and say we did have a chance last year. It didn't happen and that might be the best chance I get."
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