Late last month before embarking on the Wizards’ comemorative trip to China, Caron Butler expressed belief that Washington can rebound from a 19-63 campaign and contend for a championship now that Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood are healthy, and because of the additions of Randy Foye, Mike Miller and Francisco Oberto.
Now Antawn Jamison is talking championship as well. Shortly after speaking to middle schoolers at Junior High School and presenting them with tablet PCs and a printer while helping launch HP and NBA Cares’ nationwide program “HP Digital Assist,” which will give roughly 5,000 students from 100 middle schools in D.C., Dallas, Chicago, Houstan, Miami and San Francisco the chance to compete for more than $80,000 in HP digital classroom technology and more, Jamison took time to talk about the high expectations he has for the season.
“I’ve been with Brendan pretty much the whole summer, and you talk about somebody that’s focused. We know why [laughs], but you know, he’s focused. I even got to spend some time with Gil a couple of times. And he’s focused and he wants that Agent Zero status back, and the crowd going crazy for him, and the same with DeShawn, who’s had a tough year. He’s healthy now and wants to be the defensive stopper he was and knock down clutch shots for us. And even in talking with Mike Miller, here’s a guy who’s been with the Memphis Grizzlies, and Minnesota, now he’s in the opportunity where he’s got great talent around him, and he wants to show this organization, this city and the rest of the NBA that he can be a part of something special.”
Jamison said that new coach Flip Saunders has immediately made clear his intentions of winning a championship in the District.
“This is a guy who’s not playing around,” Jamison said. “He’s accustomed to winning 50 games a year on the regular, and most importantly, he’s accustomed to being on teams that contend for championships. I think the talent is there, the most important thing for us is staying healthy. If we’re able to do that, I think everybody’s so focused, and we realize the window of opportunity that’s here, so if we go about it the right way, we could win a championship.”
More on Flip and his outlook, Jamison said: “I’ve been around here for six years and championship talk wasn’t a norm around our locker room. That’s all we’re talking about now. If we stay healthy, I think we can compete with the upper echelon of the NBA.”
Jamison was asked if after winning just 19 games and considering that even when healthyt he Wizards haven’t won more than 45 games, if he was raising the bar too high.
His response: “What do you mean about raising the bar too high? We won 19 games last year. And we didn’t have a lot of our horses. But, I’m not one just to sugar coat things. I don’t have anything else to play for. I believe. I believe we can compete with Boston, we can compete with Cleveland, we can compete with Orlando. If you can compete with those teams, you put yourself in the category of the teams that can contend for a championship. And if that’s not possible, there’s no reason for me to be here. That’s the reason I re-signed here, because I thought we could contend for a championship. Now we’re healthy, and we’ve added some veteran pieces that know how to win. I’m not afraid to admit it at all. If we come up short, then it’s going to be sad. I’m not going to just except smiling and playing hard and just getting to the playoffs. We’ve already accomplished that.”
Jamison said he was encouraged by the additions of Miller and Foye, and then really received a boost in coonfidence following the signing of Oberto, whom he describes as a “veteran player, who doesn’t care about nothing but winning.” He also said “You like a little nasty guy on your team. And you wouldn’t automaticlaly think about him being one of those guys, but he gets under your skin a little bit. So it was good to see us add a guy like that who can back up Brendan, or back up at the [power forward] as well.”
Exactly two weeks from now, Jamison and the Wizards will be at VCU kicking off training camp. Whether or not they are the championship caliper team he believes they can be, we’ll soon see.
On another note, by now you’ve likely seen the short highlight clip of Gilbert training in Chicago with Tim Grover. If not, here’s the link to Part I. The Wizards will release Part II on Thursday, and Part III of the video next Tuesday. And some time next week Ernie Grunfeld and Flip Saunders on separate days will hold press conferences to discuss the upcoming training camp. Stay tuned ….
- Mike Jones