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Jamison adds life to Washington
by Marc Narducci / November 29, 2004

He is not the easiest player to describe or for that matter to guard.

Washington's Antawn Jamison is not really the typical small forward and the 6-foot-9, 230-pound former North Carolina Tar Heel doesn't exactly fit into the power forward mold.

He's simply a basketball player and one who is quietly emerging as one of the best players in the NBA.

For so long, he languished with Golden State Warriors teams that struggled for notoriety and wins. Last season, Jamison was finally dealt to a playoff team, the Dallas Mavericks. The only catch was that the Mavs' deep frontline forced Jamison into the unaccustomed position of coming off the bench.

All he did was earn NBA Sixth Man of the Year award after averaging 14.8 points and 6.3 rebounds, while shooting 53.5 percent from the field in 29 minutes a game.

Still, there was something unfulfilling about not beginning a game on the court. In the offseason, when Jamison was dealt to a Washington Wizards team that has struggled as mightily as his former group in Golden State, many wondered what Jamison's reaction would be.

Start with elation, and it has gotten better from there. Jamison is ecstatic to be with the Wizards and it shows in his play. In his first 11 games, he was averaging 24.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. And Jamison is also reveling in
returning to the starting lineup.

"My transition has been smooth and there have been no complaints," he said. "Coming in here Ernie (Grunfeld) and the coaching staff have made me feel comfortable, but the biggest plus has been my teammates because it's great playing with these guys."

Jamison poses so many matchup problems because he can post up the small forwards and is much quicker than the power forwards.

"I think Antawn Jamison is and has been one of the great small forwards, slash power forward scorers in the game," said 76ers coach Jim O'Brien, who watched Jamison contribute 27 points and 15 rebounds in Philadelphia's recent 116-114 overtime victory over the Wizards. "He has a way of scoring from deep and he is great at putting the ball on the ground and shooting floaters."

Jamison has gotten plenty of mileage from the floater, but where he has improved the most is with his perimeter game. The knock on him coming out of college was that he appeared lost when he strayed away from the basket.

"I was told I couldn't shoot and I have put a lot of time into improving that part of my game," he said. "Then there were people who wondered whether I was a small forward, or a power forward and those doubts about my game
just made me work harder."

Washington has enjoyed a respectable start and appears capable of contending for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

That would have been unthinkable before the offseason acquisition of Jamison. The Wizards will be even better when frontcourt players Kwame Brown and Ethan Thomas return from injuries.

"I think it can be scary," Jamison said. "You look at us now and we are 8-9 deep and when Kwame and Ethan come back, we will have a lot of players who are difference-makers."

This isn't just somebody needlessly hyping his team. Washington has one of the top young backcourts in Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes. Both players have to develop consistency, but each is a talented individual in his own right.

In addition, second-year forward Jarvis Hayes is developing into a reliable sniper off the bench, ready to give the Wizards a viable deep perimeter shooting threat.

No matter how well everybody develops, it is Jamison who has brought hope to this once-moribund franchise.

In addition to being a prolific scorer and rebounder, he is among the true ironmen in the NBA. He played all 82 games in each of the previous four years and his streak of 328 consecutive games entering the season was the
current longest in the NBA.

"He's going to make Washington a quality basketball team," O'Brien said. "Actually he has already made them a quality basketball team."

Jamison never embraced coming off the bench, but never yapped about his lack of minutes. During five playoff games, he averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds in only 21.8 minutes.

"I think at this stage of my career, I can help a team more starting and playing more minutes," he said. "I enjoyed my time in Dallas and the chance to play on a talented team, but I thought I could contribute more."

And he is excited about attempting to lead the Wizards into unfamiliar territory – the postseason.

Marc Narducci covers the NBA for the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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