- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2004

Antawn Jamison is too sturdy and stellar to be in the employ of the Wizards, accustomed to being first in injuries, first in legal counsel and last in the departed Atlantic Division.

The challenge before Abe Pollin, Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan is to keep Jamison in one piece this season.

The deal is this: Hire a bodyguard to shadow him. Build a plastic bubble in the living room of his home. And most importantly, take away his driver’s license. Given the team’s checkered history on local roadways, Jamison is one traffic stop away from that season-deflating assignment posed by a police officer: “Sir, please step out of your vehicle and say the alphabet from Z to A.”

Here is a novel twist on Fun Street: The coach, not a player, missed two games because of a blood clot in his left leg.

By now, 13 games into the season, the Wizards usually have at least one leading player in a full body cast, another who has come down with the bubonic plague and still another dealing with the legal ramifications of marijuana being planted in his luggage by a member of Carmelo Anthony’s posse, Chris Webber’s traveling companion or Mark Fuhrman.

Back in the old days, people used to be content to put rabbit ears behind the head of a buddy, especially in photographs. Now people are always planting bags of marijuana on one another.

That is the other thing. Do not allow Jamison to leave his carry-on bag unattended in airport terminals, train stations and locker rooms, and he always should remember to keep his tray table and seat in their upright and locked positions on takeoffs and landings.

All Jamison does is play 82 games a season and fill the box score with 20 points and 10 rebounds in each. All he does is convert these unorthodox shots and come up with the ball in a mass of elbows and hands.

All he does is play the game with conviction and instruct his teammates to do the same.

He has no music video to promote. He has not been served with paternity yet, at least as far as anyone knows. He has not punched the Albert Einstein-looking fellow who sits in the expensive seats. Jamison has no omnipresent body art, no replication of the Sistine Chapel on his back, no nose or lip jewelry and no hair dye in his bathroom cabinet. He is the anti-NBA player.

Quick. Get this budding All-Star, this professional’s professional, an attention-grabbing shtick, if only to guarantee his spot in the All-Star Game in February.

Perhaps Jamison could break out in song after dunking the ball. Or reprise a tap dance number from the late, great Gregory Hines. Or solicit the services of one of the Coyote Ugly lasses to shoot a locker room commercial.

By the way, this is Jamison’s team, this 8-5 team that is generating an unexpected buzz around the NBA.

Forget Kobe and Shaq.

Washington, we have the makings of a genuine playoff team.

And, Houston, you have a problem.

Imagine that improbable turn.

While Jamison has come to be the rock on which the Wizards lean, Gilbert Arenas has resolved the pass/shoot quandary to become another budding All-Star.

Who knows what to make of the scintillating play of Larry Hughes, other than to note that he is in a contract year and, like Latrell Sprewell, he has a family to feed? Incidentally, Latrell, we are left to assume that your family consumes copious amounts of caviar morning, day and night and washes it down with $1,000 bottles of wine.

We pause here to report the blatant misprint in the newspaper that shows the Wizards trailing the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers by one game. The only time the Wizards ever trail the conference’s No.1 team by one game is after the first game of the season.

We know what happens next. We will awake one day to the news that Jamison has been hit by a bus, Arenas and Hughes have decided to sign with Ron Artest’s label, and Kwame Brown has retired from the NBA to devote all his energies to his D.C. Council post.

Or we can sit back and enjoy the franchise’s first playoff season since 1997.

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