The Wizards' Antawn Jamison wants to be an all-star
Leaving Dallas provided Antawn Jamison with the greatest escape of his career. He came to Washington, landed his first two all-star appearances and embraced his role as a leader of a playoff team. But with the Wizards in the midst of what could be a second consecutive lottery season, Jamison is holding out hope for a return to Dallas -- only this time, Jamison would like to be wearing a uniform representing the Eastern Conference all-star team.
"I want to go," Jamison said after Wizards practice at Verizon Center on Saturday afternoon. "To sit here and say I don't think about it, or don't worry about it -- of course you want to be an all-star. That's an honor. I hope it does happen. But if not, I understand why."
Since returning after missing the first nine games of the season with a dislocated right shoulder, Jamison has posted 14 double-doubles and scored at least 30 points 10 times. He and Toronto's Chris Bosh are the only power forwards in the Eastern Conference averaging at least 20 points and eight rebounds. But Jamison realizes that his production seems somewhat hollow with the Wizards (14-28) tied for the conference's second-worst record.
"I know it's tough with the record, but I know it's not that many teams in the East that have that great of a record. I hope the coaches see that," said Jamison, who is averaging 21.8 points and 8.6 rebounds.
Jamison also hopes that coaches take into consideration that arguably no team in the league has had to deal with more off-court distractions and adversity than the Wizards, who have endured the death of owner Abe Pollin, a dispute involving guns between Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton, and a felony gun charge and indefinite suspension for Arenas. For Jamison, a few days in Dallas during all-star weekend could provide a much-needed reprieve from a tumultuous season.
"It would be a nice weekend to enjoy myself and get away from all the turmoil and really enjoy time with my family and friends. I hope things go my way," said Jamison, who spent one season with the Mavericks before being traded to the Wizards in the summer of 2004. "It's been tough because of the outside distractions. If we could do away with that, things would be so much different. But things that have been going on this year, you never would've seen coming at all. People are texting me all the time, 'Hang in there.' 'Keep your head up.' People realize what's going on."
Despite the chaos in recent weeks, Jamison ranks fifth in the conference in scoring average in January, with 23.5 per game -- and that's including a current two-game slump in which he has been held to a total of just 15 points on 6 of 24 shooting (25 percent) in losses to Dallas and Miami. It is the first time since April 2007 that Jamison has failed to reach double digits in points in back-to-back games.
Coach Flip Saunders said he thought Jamison could be tiring after carrying such a heavy load in the absence of Arenas. Jamison is averaging nearly 41 minutes per game this month, including a season-high 55 in a double-overtime loss in Chicago. "We are going to try to get him more rest," Saunders said. "It's probably a combination of mental fatigue, physical fatigue, everything. He's been playing at such a high level, we've been asking him to do so much, it probably wore him down a little bit."
Jamison took an elbow to the back and had surgery to remove bone spurs in his right ankle last May, but he denied that he has been slowed by any nagging injuries or ailments. "I'm 33 years old, and the things I do in the offseason are the reason why I'm prepared for what's going on now, so other than soreness the day after the game or the night of, I'm fine. It doesn't have anything to do with what has taken place the last two games with me," Jamison said.
Teammate Caron Butler said he wouldn't bet against Jamison coming back with a vengeance on Sunday afternoon when the Wizards host the Los Angeles Clippers. "Antawn is going to be Antawn. He's going to bounce back. If there is anybody on the team I don't worry about, it's him. "
Jamison is one of five active players with more than 16,000 points and 6,000 rebounds, but he has only been on four teams with a winning record in his 11 seasons. His most regular season wins came in Dallas, where he won 52 games and was named sixth man of the year in his only season with the Mavericks in 2003-04. He had high hopes for the Wizards this season, only to realize his contributions wouldn't be enough to put the franchise back on the right track.
"That's the toughest part, especially the last two seasons with injuries and the way things have been going this year; it's tough," Jamison said. "But as long as I can look at myself in the mirror and say that I'm playing hard and not giving up, and doing what I'm supposed to do, I'm still enjoying it. Even though we're not winning, I'm having fun."