EL SEGUNDO, Calif. It didn’t take long for Antawn Jamison to grasp the odd atmosphere that is Lakerville.
“Never a dull moment here,” Jamison said Tuesday morning as the Los Angeles Lakers’ game-day shootaround broke up. “We all know what the expectations are.”
That would be an NBA championship, pretty much every season. The chance to win a title in Jamison’s 15th season, by signing with the Lakers, trumped the option of living year-round in Charlotte with his four children. The Bobcats offered him a contract to play out his career as sort of a senior statesman in his hometown.
Jamison said he gave great thought to joining the Bobcats, but after playing on so many bad teams in Golden State, Washington and Cleveland, he wanted one legitimate chance at a title.
“There are guys who have years and years of opportunity to win. I just wanted one year,” Jamison said. “Whether you’re on the bench, whether you start, whether you never got off the bench, I just wanted a real opportunity.”
Of course, 11-14 – the Lakers’ record entering Tuesday night’s home game against the Bobcats – wasn’t what Jamison expected. Between the coaching shakeup and the injuries, the Lakers have been a mess. The “super team” general manager Mitch Kupchak assembled – Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard – hasn’t had real playing time together.
Power forward Gasol just got back from knee tendinitis, setting off more dissection from the local media about new coach Mike D’Antoni’s player rotations. Gasol appeared under-utilized before missing a few games with injury. Less than a month into the job, D’Antoni already sounds exasperated by all the second-guessing.
Jamison is fine with the scrutiny attached to a major media market and the Lakers’ winning tradition. What he didn’t anticipate was Los Angeles firing coach Mike Brown five games into the season. Former Bobcats coach/general manager Bernie Bickerstaff filled in before D’Antoni took over.
“We had three different training camps with three different coaches,” Jamison said. “So it’s been a lot of confusion on the players’ parts, trying to figure everything out.”
All that different?
“It’s night-and-day between Mike Brown and D’Antoni. Bernie was somewhere in between, trying to hold things together,” Jamison described. “It was totally different, as far as the things each wanted offensively and defensively.”
The Lakers still have time to figure this out. The Western Conference is loaded this season, but who doesn’t think the Lakers have a wealth of talent? As D’Antoni said Tuesday, there are six guys capable of 30-point nights; it’s just a matter of who does what in a given game.
Jamison still can score the occasional 30-plus, but he is fine with a supporting role as a reserve. When that’s over – with or without a ring – he still flirts with the idea of signing with the Bobcats.
When he made his decision last summer, Jamison called Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins to explain himself. These two have known each other since Jamison’s rookie season with the Warriors. Jamison said Higgins respected his reasoning.
And what about a homecoming?
“If they still want me back home, I’d sure listen.” Jamison said. “I have another couple of years in this body. If they want me, I’d have no reservations about putting on a Bobcats uniform.”