L.A.’s Wednesday afternoon’s signing of 14-year NBA veteran Antawn Jamison provides an immediate boost to what was a problem area for the Lakers last season: punch off the pine.
A: L.A.’s bench scored an NBA-low 20.5 points per game in 2011-12
B: Jamison is a career 19.5 points per game scorer who averaged 17.2 last season
We should acknowledge that one of the reasons L.A.’s reserves scored so little is that there were very few minutes actually spent on the floor, the subs combining for only 15.6, the second fewest in the league (Boston). Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant (27.9), Andrew Bynum (18.7) and Pau Gasol (17.4) scored so much that there weren’t many points left to be had.
Nonetheless, offensive help off the bench was an issue GM Mitch Kupchak and head coach Mike Brown wanted to address, and they feel like they’ve taken a step with Jamison.
Jamison shot only 40.3 percent from the field (34.1 percent threes) last season, but wasn’t helped by a lack of other options to dissuade defensive attention. Indeed, with the exception of a two-month stint with LeBron James to conclude the 2009-10 season in Cleveland, Jamison hasn’t played with anybody who demanded a consistent double team since his year with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas (2003-04). Last season, he still managed to productive with his combination of leaners, push shots and triples on a 21-45 Cavs team, along with 6.3 boards and 2.0 assists in 33.1 minutes.
“In the past, I’m probably the first or second option a coach is scheming against,” said Jamison. “In this situation, I might be the last guy (they) are even thinking about. I’m definitely eager for those scenarios to happen.”
“I think he’s going to get better looks,” added Kupchak. “I think teams will certainly prepare for him, but they’re going to prepare for Steve Nash, Kobe, Andrew and Pau. Maybe some teams will take him for granted a little bit.”
Jamison’s been a starter for nearly his entire career, coming off the bench only for that Dallas team — run by his new teammate Steve Nash — but is fully embracing his role-to-be this time around.
“(My job is) to come off the bench and add scoring and leadership,” he said. “I think it’s a perfect fit. I don’t have to come in and have everything on my shoulders, just come in and pretty much play my game. It’s gratifying to be with such great talent.”
Jamison can play either the three or the four, and has particularly embraced the role of a “stretch 4″ as his career has progressed.
“Having a stretch 4 creates so many more 1-on-1 opportunities in the paint where it’s not clogged up rather than having two 7-footers in there,” he explained. “It could also help Kobe out a lot with the attention that he receives … it’s a luxury you’re starting to see a lot of in this league (that’s) making it difficult for opponents to match up.”
Not known for his defense, and even drawing a laugh from Kupchak on the topic during his introductory presser, Jamison said he’s determined not to stand out in the wrong way.
“I definitely have improved and am not as much of a negative on the defensive end as I (was) early on in my career, (and) I understand the importance of not being a weak link,” he said. “I’m going to work hard, I’m going to give it my all. You won’t be able to say he’s the weak link to this puzzle where it’s offensively, defensively or in the locker room. I always have been able to get it done.”
Saying that the opportunity to compete for a championship after so many seasons in which 82 games were guaranteed at most, Jamison’s mental batteries are completely re-charged. That goal of winning it all is what ultimately made him decide to take less money than was offered elsewhere to don the purple and gold.
“He’s accomplished everything he wanted to in his life in terms of basketball (except) winning a championship,” said Kupchak. “He was in Italy about eight days ago when I called him and tried to talk him into coming here, and the thing he talked about was the one thing that was missing.”
Jamison called Nash the “best pure point guard since John Stockton” and Kobe “one of the best to ever play the game,” and said he’s feeling great physically thanks to understanding how to manage his body in the offseason … thanks in part to yoga.
But the bottom line, at the age of 37, the veteran who’s played for 12 coaches let it be known that he has never been more excited for training camp to begin.
“It’s a dream opportunity to play with a prestigious organization like the Lakers, with one of the greatest to ever play the game, to play with a front line like that,” concluded Jamison. “Who wouldn’t think this is the ideal situation to be a part of?”