JAMISON HAS SUCCESSFUL CLIPPERS DEBUT

Photo: Jamison drives in for the basket vs. Chicago

LOS ANGELES – It took 15 games, but veteran forward Antawn Jamison finally made his Clippers debut Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Bulls.

And after shaking off a bit of what he called “rust,” Jamison finished with 11 points in 15 minutes, converting four of his last five shots.

“He’s great,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “He fits that [second] unit so well because with Jamal [Crawford] able to score and [Darren Collison’s] speed, an extra shooter is a terrific fit for that group. Moving forward I will try to use him, except on back-to-back games.”

Rivers had maintained for weeks that he was “saving” the 15-year veteran for later in the season. That he was well aware of what Jamison could give the Clippers (10-5). But Rivers’ thinking changed recently. It started with some of the second unit’s struggles to score consistently and was cemented when small forward Matt Barnes underwent surgery to repair a retinal tear in his left eye.

In Minnesota on Wednesday, Rivers said he expected Jamison to play “sooner than later.” Four days later, he said, “I have just been holding him and I told him about two days ago that I was going to go to him in one of these two games, but not in both because I do not want to play him in back-to-backs.”

Jamison checked in with 33 seconds left in the first quarter to a loud ovation from the Staples Center crowd. His performance was somewhat of a statistical blip in a game where the Clippers set a franchise record for margin of victory and had seven players, including Jamison, score at least eight points. But Jamison’s numbers mattered little to his teammates.

“Like you saw tonight, he hasn’t played in 14 games and came and stretched the floor immediately,” Blake Griffin said. “His experience and his voice out there is huge for us and kind of gives us a calming effect.”


JAMISON CLOSING IN ON HISTORY

Jamison is among the NBA’s active leaders in points, total rebounds and offensive rebounds. He is also seeking to become one of only 20 players all-time to reach 20,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Jamison is 31 points shy of 20,000 (he has already eclipsed the other two career marks). Out of the previous 19 players to reach those career benchmarks, only Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are active. Fifteen have been enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the other (Shaquille O’Neal) most certainly will be someday.

Darren Collison added: “It’s just his veteran leadership, his presence alone. He’s a guy that’s not necessarily looking for his offense, but understanding how to execute. Doc has been preaching about trying to get it from side-to-side, and I think Antawn Jamison understands that by nature.”

Jamison’s influence will certainly impact the second unit. The group, which has been without Barnes for more than half of the season due to various injuries, has struggled with consistency. They’ve considered themselves a work in progress, but on Sunday they looked to have more room to operate. Crawford, the unit’s primary weapon and the fourth leading scorer on the team, was free to shake his defender free for mid-range jumpers. Speedster Darren Collison got to the rim off the dribble. And the middle of the floor was far less clogged for center Ryan Hollins. Crawford said that had a lot to do with Jamison.

“He stretches the court,” Crawford said. “He has such a high IQ. He knows if knows if doesn’t have a shot to run to a pick-and-roll, to run to a pin-down. He’s always moving. He’s a proven scorer in this league so it’s another big-time threat that people have to guard.”