- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Antawn Jamison caught Washington Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld’s eye when he averaged 24.9 points and 8.7 rebounds during the 2000-01 season. He did it again two seasons later when he had 22.2 points and 8.7 rebounds in his last season with the Golden State Warriors.

But more than anything else, it was what Jamison did last season in Dallas while posting the second-lowest scoring average (14.8) of his career that really got Grunfeld’s attention and sold him on the forward, who this year became the Wizards’ biggest offseason acquisition.

Jamison volunteered to come off the bench so there would be no bickering on a Dallas team with All-Star forwards Dirk Nowitzki and Antoine Walker. Jamison displayed humility and maturity while sacrificing personal numbers for the team.

“Antawn is a starter in this league,” Grunfeld said. “Look at what he’s done during his career. Last year he showed his unselfishness by coming off the bench. You don’t see too many players like that. … That’s why we think he is such a positive addition to our ballclub.”

Jamison, for whom the Wizards traded Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner and the fifth overall pick in last summer’s draft, went quietly about his business last season as if nothing had changed. Of course a lot had, because before he came to Dallas in a trade before last season, he had started 246 consecutive regular-season games for the Warriors.

And even though the Mavericks failed to advance in the playoffs — Sacramento eliminated them 4-1 in the first round — Jamison was named the league’s top sixth man playing 29 minutes a game and averaging 6.3 rebounds.

Despite the drop in his offensive numbers — his 6,697 points over the last four seasons ranked him 10th overall in the league over that span — Jamison said he learned more about what it takes to win with Dallas than in his five seasons with Golden State. Last season was his first playoff appearance.

“I found out last year that there is a situation where no one cared about who took all the shots,” Jamison said. “The only thing we cared about was holding up your end of the bargain and winning basketball games. It was fun to experience that.”

However, the Wizards did not trade for Jamison, who will make approximately $58million over the next four years, to come off the bench. Whenever his name is mentioned by either Grunfeld or coach Eddie Jordan, they point out how he can be “a 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] guy.”

Although he is 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, the 28-year-old Jamison is versatile enough to play power forward or small forward. The Wizards anticipate playing him at both positions this season. He can run, which Jordan likes, and he is the league’s most durable player. His current steak of 328 consecutive games played is the longest in the NBA.

By comparison, injuries sidelined Stackhouse for a team-high 54 games last season. Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes, former teammates of Jamison’s at Golden State and last season Washington’s two top scorers, also missed huge chunks of the season.

“He plays so well off the ball — he fits our style,” Jordan said of Jamison. “We want to get out and run and get easy baskets. And he doesn’t miss games. We had our three best players miss a lot of games last year. You can’t control injuries, but somehow he has been so durable in getting that streak that he has.”

More than anything, Jamison believes his experience in Dallas will help him be a team leader. He is aware of the blessing and burden the tempestuous Arenas can be, and the two have talked about that already.

“It’s going to take a lot of work,” Jamison said of helping improve the Wizards, who last season won just 25 games. “I want the other guys to experience what I experienced last year. But it’s not just going to happen. It’s going to take a lot of hard work from everyone. And the most important thing is you have to sacrifice.”

Which is something Jamison knows a little bit about.

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