It's been nearly five months since the Washington Wizards were swept out of the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by the Miami Heat. To hear all-star forward Antawn Jamison talk, the pain of that experience hasn't worn off.
"I don't know that you can ever get over that," he said. "I mean, we got swept. That's not the way you want it to end no matter how good a season you might have had. For me, I feel we have to do whatever it takes to get back to that point because you always remember how your season ended. Definitely, there is a bad taste there."
Jamison, who averaged 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds last season and was voted to his first all-star team, is channeling those leftover feelings of frustration into his approach to the upcoming season.
Jamison is as amiable as they come but has carried himself with an edge during the team's weeklong training camp, which concludes Sunday with a two-hour workout at Siegel Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Aside from making it clear that getting swept in the playoffs was unacceptable, Jamison has bought into Coach Eddie Jordan's demand that his team play better defense, and he has chafed at suggestions that the Wizards will struggle without guard Larry Hughes.
It helps that Jamison is feeling healthy after offseason surgery to repair his right knee. The knee has been pain free and Jamison has played with a bounce that was missing during the playoffs, working his way around the basket with his usual assortment of crafty scoop shots and jump hooks while adding distance to his jump shot.
Jamison shot 34.1 percent from three-point range last season but feels that he can get back to where he was during the 2003-04 season, when he made 40 percent of his threes with the Dallas Mavericks.
"It's one of those things where you always want to get better, you always want to improve," Jamison said. "Every season, you want to be working on something in your game and that's something, along with my defense, that I want to improve on this season. That's the approach we need to take as a team."
Jamison's serious approach has been mirrored by his teammates. Jordan is pleased that the practices have been crisp and that his players, particularly newcomers Caron Butler, Chucky Atkins and Antonio Daniels, quickly grasped his offensive and defensive systems.
Jordan has been fiddling with potential lineups throughout the week and has been pleased with the competitiveness he has witnessed.
"It's a more experienced team that knows what to expect," Jordan said. "Everybody was on time. There were no incidents at camp. Everyone competed at the highest level. That's all you can ask for. When you compete at a high level, you see some growth as far as coming together."
The next step, according to Jordan, will be for the team to navigate its way through the preseason and then handle the inevitable ups and downs that occur during an 82-game season.
"I've always said: What happens when the tough times come?" Jordan said. "How will we as a team react? How will we as individuals react when times get tough? We'll see how it works."
Wizards Notes: The lineups Jordan used for Saturday night's 28-minute intrasquad scrimmage offered little insight into his plans for a starting lineup once the regular season begins Nov. 2 at Toronto.
Saturday night, the black team starters were Atkins and Billy Thomas at guard, Jamison and Michael Ruffin at forward and Etan Thomas at center. The white team starters were Jarvis Hayes and Daniels at guard, Butler and Jared Jeffries at forward and Brendan Haywood at center.
All-star guard Gilbert Arenas didn't start because he was stretching out his back as the scrimmage began, but Arenas entered the game and scored six points in 14 minutes with the black team.
The white team won, 40-36, and was led by Butler's 10 points and three rebounds. Second-year center Peter John Ramos also had a strong showing for the white team, scoring eight points on 4-of-7 shooting.
Rookie forward Andray Blatche, who is rehabilitating injuries he suffered in a Sept. 25 shooting, sat on the bench with the white team. Blatche said he plans on getting back onto the court in two to three weeks.
The team said 2,900 spectators were on hand. Their was no charge for admission.