The Warriors later shipped Jamison to Dallas, where he was reduced to the role of sixth man on a talented roster. "He won the sixth man award, but he wasn't happy," TNT studio analyst Kenny Smith said earlier this season. "I don't think he wanted to be known as that at this point in his career. He's not a bench player. He's a prime-time player."
The trade to Washington provided Jamison with the opportunity he had been waiting on for some time. "That's the ultimate reward, for you to be the main piece of the puzzle and have a lot of success. It's what basketball is all about," Jamison said.
Wizards teammates Gilbert Arenas, above, and Antawn Jamison have taken different roads on the way to their first NBA All-Star Game appearances.
(Tony Dejak - AP)
_____ Wizards in '05 _____
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Arenas wears No. 0 as a reminder of the people who told him that he'd see that many minutes at Arizona, where he helped lead the Wildcats to the NCAA championship game in 2001.
"The reason I still wear zero? Because that's what I am. It made me who I am," he said.
Arenas felt that he performed better in workouts and the Chicago predraft camp than several of the players who were selected ahead of him 2001. "It just shows second-rounders, never give up on yourself," he said.
Through most of his first season in Golden State, Arenas was stashed on the injured list until Hughes suffered an ankle injury, giving him an opportunity. Once Arenas hit the floor, the Warriors couldn't sit him down; and when he became a restricted free agent in 2003, they couldn't afford to keep him after he won the league's most improved player award.
The Wizards swooped in with a six-year, $65-million contract at the right time for Arenas, a North Hollywood, Calif., native who thought that a move to the East Coast was his best bet.
"I needed to get focused. I needed to grow," Arenas said.
In his first season in Washington, Arenas put up good numbers but missed 27 games because of an abdominal strain, and he also earned a reputation as a hothead as he regularly collected technical fouls and fines.
"As a young player, if you're losing and you have an attitude, it can be perceived that you're a bad seed," Arenas said. "I just wanted to win so badly."
Jordan said Arenas has been a different player this season, not only in his production but in his attitude. "It seems like a light clicked on," Jordan said. "Gilbert has turned it around -- his behavior, basketball-wise and as a point guard."
Arenas doesn't plan on leaving Denver without making an impression. If East Coach Stan Van Gundy of the Miami Heat gives Arenas some playing time, Arenas said he will make the most of it. The last time he participated in All-Star Weekend, Arenas scored 30 points in the Rookie Challenge game in 2003 and won the MVP award. "Oh yeah," Arenas said. "Once I get on the floor, I've got one thing on my mind -- it's winning and going for that trophy. Why not?"