- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

Antawn Jamison is neither strong nor explosive, just incredibly efficient and clever.

He has the quickest shot release in the NBA, usually fashioned after he has grabbed an offensive rebound.

The ball is out of his hands before a defender is able to react.

“How do you do that?” Jamison said of the question that is routinely posed to him.

“It is hard to explain,” he said yesterday after being selected to appear in his second All-Star Game.

Jamison is the quintessential unorthodox player with the weighty numbers that defy traditional basketball explanations. He is averaging a double-double, 21.1 points and 10.5 rebounds, and a slew of disbelieving field goals.

He shoots floaters in the three-second lane off the wrong foot. He pivots with his back to the basket in Gumby-like fashion and may flip up a shot that is released under the outstretched hands of the defender.

He sometimes attempts what appear to be no-look shots around the basket, assuming he does not have an extra pair of eyes on the side of his head.

There is an elasticity about him that yields floor space — but not detrimentally so.

Jamison is appreciated more in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood than in all the other NBA venues because his playing style is an acquired taste that requires study and repeated viewings.

You eventually discover there is a genius to what he does. It is predicated on subtleties and angles and a teetering gait. It is not highlight-reel stuff. The power of intelligence never is. And Jamison is a gentlemanly basketball player as well. He often plays with a smile on his face. He rarely loses his equilibrium and only then to demonstrate that a referee has momentarily lost his eyesight.

That was the case Tuesday night, when he was wrongly whistled for a player-control foul in the first half. It nullified his basket in transition and what should have been a trip to the foul line.

Jamison did not allow the call to undermine his purpose. Nor did he become flustered by the repeated double-team defenses of the Raptors. He finished with 24 points and 20 rebounds in response to Caron Butler’s absence.

Jamison is 31 years old but destined to age well. His worthiness is not built on speed, quickness and jumping ability. He plays on the floor and succeeds because of hands that seemingly are made out of Velcro and because of an innate sense of where the ball is going after it glances off the rim.

He will not lose either gift during his next contract. And he will not lose his falling-down hook shot or his pretzel-like, tear-drop shot that most would eschew in a game of H-O-R-S-E. And he will not lose his so-so ability to defend.

His ordinariness on defense — the one knock on him — is sometimes exacerbated because of the team’s need to place a 6-foot-9, 235-pound small forward at power forward. He perseveres anyway, and really, his defense has been found less wanting around the shot-blocking ascendancy of Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche this season.

Like the rest of the team’s supporters, Jamison is waiting on the return of Gilbert Arenas. It actually has been a year since the threesome of Arenas, Butler and Jamison had the Wizards atop the Eastern Conference standings. First Jamison succumbed to an injury, then Butler and Arenas.

A new season merely has resulted in the familiar story line of who is not in uniform.

“That’s the disappointing thing,” Jamison said. “We just can’t seem to get our whole team together. Can we get everybody healthy to see what we have? For us now, making the playoffs is just an afterthought. It is about how far we can take this thing. I’ll tell you, if we’re healthy, I don’t think anyone wants to play us in a seven-game series in the playoffs.”

And no one ever looks forward to defending Jamison, the All-Star with the unusual bag of tricks.

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