- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The rivalry between the Wizards and the Cavaliers started when they were playoff teams led by Gilbert Arenas and LeBron James, respectively. Now, Arenas is playing for the Orlando Magic and James for the Miami Heat.

The Magic and Heat are playoff teams, while the Wizards and Cavaliers are languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and are in full-fledged rebuilding mode. But the rivalry remains intact.

The two teams will close out the season against one another Wednesday night in Cleveland, with Washington leading the season series 2-1. For Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison, the picture must look all too familiar.

Jamison, a 12-year veteran who turns 35 in June, spent six years in a Wizards uniform and was part of a playoff contender until Arenas‘ knee injuries, legal troubles and 50-game suspension last year forced the team to start making trades that signaled the start of the Wizards’ overhaul.

Last February, Jamison was traded to Cleveland, another playoff contender until James left for South Beach, and Jamison soon found himself as part of the Cavaliers’ rebuild. But despite his circumstances, Jamison seems to keep a positive attitude.

“To go through what we went through and still come out and compete I think is going to help us for the future,” Jamison said in an interview posted on the Cavaliers’ website.

“These young guys got a lot of experience [this season]. They know what it takes to be successful for 82 games. Injury-free, this is a team that can compete,” said Jamison, who has been out since March with a finger injury.

Jamison has long had a reputation as a role model and community leader, and was the recipient of this year’s Austin Carr Good Guy Award.

“When I first got into the league, I was fortunate enough to have some veterans show me the ropes,” he said. “It makes a difference. Our confidence level is definitely better than it was to start the season. Before the season, we were still just trying to figure things out. But I’m excited about next season.”

There are remarkable similarities between Jamison’s current team and his former team, with one exception - the Wizards already have their centerpiece for the future in John Wall. The Cavaliers still are looking for that marquee name to take away the sting of losing James.

And while very few pairs of lottery teams can call their games a rivalry, the Wizards and Cavaliers still have one, despite the absence of Arenas and James. A return to playoff form by both franchises should make it one to watch in the not-too-distant future.