Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison is a career 46.1 percent shooter and was voted to his first all-star team last season, so he has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his preseason performance.
Still, Jamison is struggling with his shot and looking to find a groove in time for the Nov. 2 season opener at Toronto.
"I've always been a slow starter so that's why I'm not too worried about it," said Jamison, who has made only 17 of 61 shots (27.9 percent) in the Wizards' first six preseason games. "It seems like every year I go through this and then I kind of find my groove and everything is all right."
The good news for the Wizards: Jamison is free of pain after undergoing offseason knee surgery and said he came into training camp in the best condition of his eight-year career. Jamison strained his right shoulder while scrambling for a loose ball during Friday's 97-91 loss to Denver but said he plans on playing Sunday night against the Rockets. He practiced here Saturday night but his availability will be a game time decision.
He's been taking the floor early to work on his shooting before games and said he plans on taking a more serious approach into the final two games of the preseason, which wraps up Friday at Indiana.
Jamison, who averaged 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds last season, said the Wizards are still finding themselves offensively. Guards Chucky Atkins and Antonio Daniels and forward Caron Butler are still learning Coach Eddie Jordan's system, so it's been up to players like Jamison, guard Gilbert Arenas, center Brendan Haywood and forward Jared Jeffries to direct traffic and help their new teammates get to their correct spots on the floor.
Last season, Jamison was the only new face in the Wizards' starting lineup. He was able to blend in quickly because he was surrounded by players who already understood the ins and outs of the offense.
"I'd be out there and Gilbert or somebody would just push me to the right spot and we'd go," Jamison said. "More than anything else we're working on getting better spacing. Right now, guys are sometimes still trying to figure out where they have to be on the floor and that clogs things up a little bit. Once we all get on the same page in the offense, it will run more smoothly."
A Lackluster Performance
Friday's loss to the Nuggets in Los Angeles was particularly ugly because Denver rested several key players, including Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin and Earl Boykins. Still, Denver was clearly the more energetic team, jumping on the Wizards early and controlling the tempo throughout.
The game, part of a mini-tournament, tipped off at 4:30 p.m. PDT in front of a few hundred people inside the cavernous Staples Center. The building was so quiet at tip-off, Jordan and Denver Coach George Karl could be heard talking to their players from across the court.
The building only began to fill up late in the fourth quarter as fans started to arrive for the Los Angeles Lakers-Charlotte Bobcats game.
"We can't blame the atmosphere," Jordan said. "We have to play better than that."
Keeping an Eye on Arenas
Arenas left Friday's game after getting poked in the eye, but afterward said the injury wasn't serious. "I just got scratched in the eye a little bit," Arenas said Friday. "I'll be fine."
He did not practice Saturday night and a decision on whether he will play Sunday will be made at game time.