- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2009


Antawn Jamison is the underappreciated All-Star, all twist and turns at odd angles, with a flip shot here and a hook shot there, sometimes completed off the wrong foot.

The highly unorthodox skill set is a dynamic that should allow the 33-year-old forward to remain incredibly productive in the seasons ahead.

Jamison is not dependent on quickness or ooh-provoking athleticism. He plays close to the floor, rarely dunking the ball, and accumulates a high number of rebounds because of his sense of timing and Velcro-like hands.

Jamison, the consummate professional ever since he came to the Wizards in a trade in June 2004, is the third-oldest player on the roster.

Not that Jamison hears the ticking of his basketball clock.

If anything, it is the same as it ever was.

“It doesn’t feel different,” he said this week from the team’s training camp. “From day one, I think guys looked up to me to be a leader. My role hasn’t changed at all. Guys expect me to handle myself in a certain way.”

Jamison is almost the anti-NBA player. He is not endeavoring to be the Father of our Country. He is not a fixture along the nightclub circuit. He does not dance or mug after making a play. All he does, game after game, is put up 20-10, basketball parlance for 20 points and 10 rebounds.

With his first 117 points of the season - about six games’ worth of work - Jamison will become one of five active players to have 16,000 points and 6,000 rebounds. He is certain to reach the coveted 20,000-point mark in the seasons ahead.

However robust the numbers, his body of work is incomplete because of a thin postseason portfolio. He has played on a number of bad teams, only one worse than the 19-63 Wizards last season. His teams have advanced to the postseason only five times in 11 seasons, and only one team has advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

That hard reality is stoking his sense of expectations this season. The team has been declared healthy, the first time in two-plus seasons, and everyone from Ernie Grunfeld to Flip Saunders is pushing the notion that the Wizards are ready to compete with the NBA elite.

Jamison, too, has pushed the championship aspirations of the Wizards, although his latest remarks on the subject were more subdued.

“The most important thing is that we stay injury-free this season,” he said. “Our biggest thing in the course of 82 games is that we handle the games we’re supposed to handle and get back to being able to finish games. We have a lot of confidence in how we play. The sky’s the limit, in my mind. But you can’t talk about it.”

Actually, the Wizards are limited to talk until they open the season Oct. 27 in Dallas.

Jamison is not averse to the talk. It goes with the job. He is there to set a tone.

“For 2 1/2 years, we haven’t had our full team,” Jamison said. “And let’s be honest, you’re talking about the best player on our team [in Gilbert Arenas] being out. We had so many expectations the last two seasons. But we didn’t have him. It’s no different if the Lakers didn’t have Kobe or if the Cavaliers didn’t have LeBron. He is one of those guys that makes the game easier for everyone.”

But now Arenas is back, full of swagger anew.

And Jamison is hoping that this season becomes one vast payback.

You can be certain he will do his part, putting up his customary numbers, being ever reliable as the 20-10 player who goes almost unnoticed.

Jamison long ago made peace with that.

What he is about is adding heft to his postseason ledger.

• Tom Knott can be reached at tknott@washingtontimes.com.

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