By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 5, 2009
RICHMOND, Oct. 4 -- Antawn Jamison was especially animated on Sunday, unwilling to let his team lose in its scrimmage against the team led by Gilbert Arenas. Running the floor, Jamison was shouting incessantly on defense and showing off his arsenal on offense, complete with twisting shots off the wrong foot, unorthodox hook shots and spot-up jumpers.
His team was winning, his shots were falling, and Coach Flip Saunders had to wonder if Jamison was 33 or had turned the clock back to 23. "He was on fire," Saunders said. "I told him he was back to his 50-point days with the Warriors, the way he was going."
But Jamison has no desire going back to his days in Golden State, Dallas or even the past few years in Washington, where the two-time all-star put up impressive statistics on teams that were often vacationing before the second week of May. Jamison has reached the postseason only five times in 11 seasons and advanced to the second round just once.
Following a season in which the Wizards won 19 games -- "the worst season of my career," he said -- Jamison's role as one of the team leaders remains unchanged, but his attitude and focus are much different than before. "In the past, I was complacent," said Jamison, one of just two players to average at least 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds the past five seasons. "We got to have a new attitude. No hidden agendas. No 'I got to average this.' No 'I got to make the all-star team.' It's all about doing whatever it takes to be part of a successful team, a championship-caliber team. Once you look at it, I got a couple more years left before it's all said and done and there is only one thing I want to accomplish."
President Ernie Grunfeld shored up the Wizards' depth with the offseason acquisitions of Mike Miller, Randy Foye and Fabricio Oberto, which makes this team possibly the most talented one Jamison has been on since he was a sixth man in Dallas during the 2003-04 season. But even with the progression of 23-year-old Andray Blatche, the Wizards still lack a proven and reliable backup at power forward, making Jamison an even more invaluable piece.
"I'm not going to feel any more pressure than in the past," Jamison said, adding that he believes the Wizards have enough behind him to make it work.
Saunders has coached against Jamison for years, but has learned much more about him in the first week of camp. "Until you coach somebody, you're totally unaware of all that they bring to you," Saunders said. "I wasn't totally aware he was as much of a communicator on the floor. I thought he was more of a silent leader. He was a lot more vocal than I thought. Playing-wise, his ability to score is uncanny. He's got a great work ethic. Those things add to why he's important. No matter what position he plays, he's important."
Saunders said his goal this season is to reduce Jamison's minutes to the "low 30s" after Jamison averaged 38.2 minutes per game and finished fourth in total minutes played last season with 3,095. Jamison still averaged 22.2 points, his best since joining the Wizards, and 8.9 rebounds, third-best of his career. He played 81 games but missed the finale because of bone spurs in his right ankle, which required offseason surgery.
"Even though it was a tough season and the minutes I played, my body didn't wear down like I thought it would," Jamison said. "I guess because of all the things I do in the offseason. Doing the things I normally do with yoga, and with the trainer I work with in Charlotte. You'll have your bumps and bruises over the course of the season but I try to stay in shape and try not to get too bad out of shape. I'm always conscious about making sure I don't get two or three pounds over playing weight, else I get paranoid."
Jamison has averaged fewer than 36 minutes a game just twice in his career -- his rookie year and when he won sixth man of the year in Dallas. And while he hates spending any time on the bench, Jamison is willing to let Saunders take advantage of his deep roster. "It's not about having an ego with some of the big guys like Caron [Butler] and Gilbert," Jamison said. "We really want to make some noise and that's going to take maybe the minutes going down a little bit and these other guys getting the opportunity to help us out. That's one of the differences between the great teams and the teams that just make it through it."
Wizards Notes: Owners Abe and Irene Pollin and their son, Jim, visited the team in Richmond on Sunday and spoke with players. Abe Pollin "talked to most of the guys individually, the biggest thing was appreciating their hard work," Saunders said. "He was impressed with their camaraderie, their enthusiasm and how hard they played and the spirit of how they were playing." . . . Oberto was again limited with a left hamstring injury. Saunders was asked if Oberto would be available for the Wizards' first preseason game against Memphis on Tuesday. "At this point, I'll say probably not," Saunders said.