Sports Out West

Antawn Jamison expected to play Monday against Warriors

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Los Angeles Lakers forward Antawn Jamison was diagnosed with a sprained right wrist on Saturday, but is expected to play in the opener of a four-game road trip that begins on Monday against the Golden State Warriors.  Jamison participated in non-contact drills during Sunday’s practice session and by his own admission, should be ready for action.

“It will take a lot for me not to be out there,” Jamison told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.  “I should be OK.”

However, he expressed that he is feeling some soreness, but it should not severely hinder his ability to shoot or dribble.

“It’s sore, but as long as I’m able to shoot it and put it on the ground for one or two dribbles, I should be fine,” said Jamison.  “It’s just the initial shock of it taking place and trying to get over the soreness and the swelling, but nothing is slowing me down.  I was able to shoot the ball.”

Jamison suffered the injury during the third quarter of a 103-100 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday.  An MRI on Saturday revealed a slight tear in his right wrist and the Lakers originally listed him as day-to-day.

Jamison has been an instrumental component in the Lakers’ rotation, particularly when center-forward Pau Gasol was out for 20 games with a tear in his right plantar fascia.  He averaged 11.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game during Gasol’s absence, picking up the slack for the injured Spaniard and providing offensive punch off the Lakers’ bench.

The 36-year-old, 15-year NBA veteran is proving to be the offensive player the Lakers hoped to have when they officially signed him via free agency in the 2012 offseason.  Rather than accept a more lucrative offer from the Charlotte Bobcats to play out the rest of his career, Jamison opted to forego coming back to the city where he grew up and sign the veteran’s minimum to join the Lakers.

Jamison’s central reason was to win a championship in the twilight of his career.  With the signing of future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash and All-Star center Dwight Howard, the path to Jamison’s first championship appeared passable.

However, things didn’t begin as planned when the promising season started with the ousting of former head coach Mike Brown after five games.  After assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff took over in the interim, Mike D’Antoni was hired to supplant Brown.  In the meantime, Jamison was struggling to find his footing with the constant changes in offensive systems.

Furthermore, with Gasol, Hill and even Metta World Peace vying for playing time at the power forward spot, Jamison’s minutes were in limbo in D’Antoni’s rotation.  He proved he was still an able scorer, putting up 33 points in 33 minutes during a 122-103 win against the Denver Nuggets on November 30.

Nonetheless, D’Antoni began to play him sparingly, opting to use Hill or World Peace off the bench rather than Jamison.  He was even listed as “DNP—Coach’s Decision” for five straight games from December 22 to January 1. 

As a result, the veteran forward elucidated his frustration with a lack of playing time. 

“Fifteen years,” said a frustrated Jamison. “My only thing is let me know why.  I don’t think you go from starting and 30-something minutes to not in the rotation whatsoever.  And not explaining to me what exactly happened, that’s the toughest thing.  There’s nothing you can do but be positive and support your teammates.  The only reason I came here was they said I was going to play and to win a championship.”

Coach D’Antoni cited Jamison as a defensive liability in regard to his diminished role, but a twist of fate occurred when Hill was lost for the rest of the season with a hip injury in early January.  Jamison’s minutes swelled and so did his offensive efficiency—he scored 9.6 points per game from January 8 to January 30 and 13.2 points per game in the month of February.

Now, Jamison is thriving as a vital cog in the Lakers’ second unit and his increased bench role is one of the reasons why the team has won seven of their 11 games thus far in March.  A little over a week ago, he scored his second highest point total this season—27 in a 113-102 win against the Sacramento Kings.

With Gasol’s return to the starting lineup last Friday, a healthy Jamison is necessary to help shore up the power forward position while the 7-footer regains his conditioning.  It remains to be seen whether the sprained wrist will dramatically affect his future performances.

With the Lakers hanging on to the final playoff spot with a two-game lead over the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference, Jamison’s bench scoring is a must in their upcoming four-game road trip. 

“We go on the road and we have four games on the road,” said Coach D’Antoni after the disappointing loss last Friday to the Wizards.  “All of them, we have to win them all.”

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Ben Hernandez Jr.

Ben Hernandez Jr. is a Los Angeles native who is unable to eliminate his fixation for sports, particularly the NBA. He currently works as a writer/editor for a business school and has written for various publications on topics, such as finance, politics, and health. Sports-wise, he has covered the LA Lakers and Clippers on Examiner.com. Ben is also a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.