JAMISON ADDS LEADERSHIP, MORE SHOOTING TO CLIPPERS
PLAYA VISTA – Minutes after he arrived at the Clippers' training facility for the first time as a member of the team, Antawn Jamison was touring his new digs.
He stepped onto the dimly lit court, a place he last visited three years ago when the Cavaliers practiced prior to a regular-season game in L.A.
“It’s a lovely facility,” the 37-year-old forward said.
“The only thing they’re missing is a championship. That’s the only reason why I’m here. I’m glad that things worked out. It took a while for it to get done, but patience is a virtue. And we were able to get it worked out and I think I can come in and contribute and be that piece that makes this organization very special.”
Jamison, who officially agreed to terms with the Clippers Wednesday afternoon, is projected to play a reserve role as a sharp-shooter from the perimeter. He is fifth among active players in offensive rebounds and is a season removed from averaging 17.2 points per game in Cleveland. Jamison’s on-the-court production will be part of the equation, but so, too, will his ability as a leader.
“The thing about this situation, I know it’s going to be good, because in the past I’ve been the leader of a rebuilding process or other situations taking place, but now it’s about maybe lending an ear to Blake [Griffin] or talking to DeAndre [Jordan],” Jamison said. “Me and C.P. (Chris Paul) have known each other ever since he’s been in the league, so I have his respect as well.”
And while his days an All-Star and top-flight talent are gone, Jamison noted: “Also, I can still play the game of basketball, too, so that helps as well.
“I’ve always been consistent. Being a vocal leader out there on the court, being able to talk, it really helps out everybody else. I’m not the best defensive player, but team defense I think goes unnoticed a little bit. He told me, ‘I’m not going to put you on an island, but if you get to the spots I need you to get to, you’re going to be fine.’ Those are the things I think people take for granted: understanding, being able to have that basketball IQ. And I think you’ll see a little bit of that.”
Jamison played his first four seasons with the Golden State Warriors before being dealt to the Dallas Mavericks in 2003-04. After one season in Dallas he was shipped to Washington, where along with Gilbert Arenas and former Clipper Caron Butler he formed the nucleus of a perennial contender. Jamison said it was his sixth year, and first in Washington, when he became comfortable as not only a player who lead by example, but someone who was vocal as well.
“I always led by example, came in first into practice, played hard, listened to the coach,” said Jamison, whose No. 33 jersey was retired by the University of North Carolina after three seasons in Chapel Hill. “I was always was what you want a player to do, but it wasn’t until I got to D.C. when it was kind of, not thrown upon me, but it was an opportunity for me to do that (be a vocal leader). It just came natural. I spoke, guys listened. I was able to communicate with the coaches and the players and things like that, so that stage made it comfortable for me to be that type of leader.”
He sounded confident that those qualities will be invaluable for the Clippers in 2013-14. Similar to last season, the roster is a mix of youth and veterans, players in their prime or slightly exiting it. Among the team’s five frontcourt players, Jamison is the oldest by nearly a decade.
“We have a talented team,” Jamison said. “As far as me, whether it’s that second unit, or wherever the minutes are, just having that positive outlook, that positive attitude. For the teammates to see that this guy’s been in the league for 16 years and doesn’t complain about nothing. He just goes out there and does his job. Those are the things that I think I bring to this team and to this organization.”
Jamison is engaging, calm and good-natured. When he toured the facility he shook hands with nearly everyone he passed in the hallways, met with Rivers and posed for pictures holding up a white No. 33 Clippers jersey. He said he doesn’t envision playing beyond the 2014-15 season and chose to be a Clipper because it was an opportunity to win the championship that has so far eluded him.
“I can tell you one thing, every team in the Western Conference would fear us in a seven-game series if we’re clicking and playing unselfish basketball,” Jamison said. “The only thing that matters is winning, not how many touches I’ve got or how many times I’ve seen the ball in the last three or four minutes. It’s going to take some time but the one thing that makes it easier to attain is that guy up there.”
Jamison paused, tilting his head towards Rivers’ office that overlooks the court.
“I think he’ll have our ears, we respect him, he’s won it,” he continued. “He’s probably one of the best coaches in the league today. Having him will pretty much speed up the process, but this is a team that can win right now. And that’s the one thing that really intrigued me. I like the makeup and I think adding me as a certain piece to this puzzle, we can really make this organization special by winning. And in my heart I really didn’t want to go anywhere else.”