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Duo Is a Bit Star-Struck

Wizards' Jamison, Arenas Immersing Themselves in All-Star Festivities

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 19, 2005; Page D07

DENVER, Feb. 18 -- Ten minutes after the all-star media session ended at a hotel ballroom, Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison was the only player left, still answering questions from a handful of reporters. Ten minutes later, workers had taken down all of the all-star banners hanging on the walls, were close to disassembling a makeshift studio for ESPN -- and Jamison's mouth was still running, talking to whomever would listen.

NBA Vice President of Communications Tim Frank signaled to Wizards public relations director Zack Bolno that it was time to leave. "This doesn't happen too often," Frank said.


The NBA All-Star Weekend is a new experience for Wizards teammates Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison. (Jack Dempsey - AP)

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Five minutes later, Jamison finally wrapped up his record-setting all-star question-and-answer session and walked out of the door. "I'm soaking it all in," Jamison said, flashing a smile. "I'm enjoying it."

After waiting seven years for his first all-star appearance, Jamison isn't in any rush for this time to end. Neither is his teammate, Gilbert Arenas, another Wizards first-time all-star experiencing a Mile High high. Arenas was the first Eastern Conference all-star to sit down and begin fielding questions at his table. Wearing a long-sleeve white T-shirt with a picture of Buckwheat and the phrase "O-Tay!" on it, Arenas really was a Little Rascal. Calling himself "the second-round wonder," Arenas predicted that he'd win the All-Star Game most valuable player trophy, cracked jokes and smiled throughout the 45-minute session.

Arenas used that time to dispel some myths: He said that the infamous story in which he flipped a coin to decide between the Wizards and the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency two years ago was made up to "entertain the media."

"No, it wasn't true. I mean, I did flip a coin, but I'd made up my mind where I was going," Arenas said.

He reluctantly named the team that he wished had drafted him 2001: "I wanted to play for the Lakers. Stay home," the North Hollywood, Calif., native said before shaking his head. "But I would've grown out of that -- 120-something tickets every night."

He grinned while expressing his excitement about receiving a ring for making the all-star team. "I'm going to wear it every day like it's a championship ring -- until I win a championship," he said. "I think I'm going to be more excited when I get my jersey, with 'All-Star' and my name on it."

He explained the fortunes of players who leave Golden State. "They always do, ya know, make the all-star team," said Arenas, who joins a list of players that includes Jamison, Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell.

Arenas also mentioned his career aspirations if he hadn't made it to the NBA. "I'd be a comedian," he said. "I wouldn't be a good one. But I'd be a comedian."

Jamison didn't take the Def Comedy Jam route as he spoke mostly about his days in Golden State and Dallas. Wearing a gray Adidas sweat suit, Jamison also answered several questions about his former North Carolina teammate, friend and brother-in-law Vince Carter, a six-time all-star who has revitalized his career since being traded from Toronto to New Jersey this season. Maybe by happenstance, Jamison was placed in the hotel room directly opposite from Carter this weekend.

"I've been trying to get away from this guy since we got drafted, but we get closer and closer," said Jamison, who was traded for Carter on draft day in 1998. "I'm glad we're going through this together."

"I'm happy for him. He's my best friend," Carter said. "And for years and years we always thought he should've been here. I know he's going to be nervous. He keeps telling me that he's a vet and he's going to be all right. I'm going to die laughing when he takes that first shot."

Carter said he wanted to give Jamison the ball for his shot on Sunday. "He said he wanted to see if I shoot an air ball or not," Jamison said with a laugh. "I'm just going to feed off the rest of those guys. If it's a laid-back atmosphere, I'm going to be laid-back. If it's intense, I'm going to be intense. This is my first one, I don't know what to expect, I don't know how I'm going to play, I'm going to have fun."


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