SACRAMENTO, Calif. – He called last season a waste of time, personally and, just in case it had not been obvious to the world long ago, for all the Lakers. It was worse than that, though. It was, Antawn Jamison said, much more tension between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard than previously acknowledged.
“It was bad,” Jamison told NBA.com Friday night at Sleep Train Arena, where his new team, the Clippers, played the Kings.
The respected veteran forward echoed previous sentiments from Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni that Howard was committed to the team and not simply going through the motions in a season-long countdown to free agency that ultimately led to signing with the Rockets. And Jamison did not single out Bryant or Howard for causing the rift that contributed to championship aspirations turning into a 45-37 record and 4-0 loss in the first round against the Spurs. But he left no doubt the rumored friction was real and an undeniable factor in the underachieving season that also included Mike Brown being fired and replaced by D’Antoni.
“The writing’s on the wall,” Jamison said. “Whatever you say happened between the coaching staff, Kobe and Dwight – it was a combination of everything. Not understanding roles. Not being up front with roles. Our two superstars didn’t get along. Inside the organization as far as which coach to bring in. With that talent, that’s tough to deal with. But of course, championships and successful seasons don’t run because of what’s on the roster. You have to deal with injuries, you have to deal with certain situations that we just didn’t handle the situations at all.”
Asked what struck him most about the Howard-Bryant conflict, Jamison said: “That we couldn’t figure things out. That we couldn’t put the way we felt about certain situations to the side and just play basketball.”
Did Howard need to do something different? Did Bryant?
“I think we all needed to do something different. When I say that, I could have spoke up and said, ‘Let’s figure this out.’ It was a combination of everything. Everything that could have went wrong went wrong.”
If the two had been clicking, would the Lakers have been…?
Jamison didn’t wait for the end of the question.
“A lot better,” he said.
Is that what brought the season down?
“That’s just a small part of it,” Jamison said. “You’ve got to think about it. Not only that, but having Mike (Brown) there and Mike being fired, and D’Antoni coming in and not being able to have his stamp on the system, not being able to get us to play in that system. It was a lot of things. It wasn’t just the thing between Dwight and Kobe. Steve Nash got hurt. Pau Gasol went down. D’Antoni had to play with reserves that had to play a lot of minutes that probably wouldn’t have played that many minutes. Kobe, the injuries, fatigue and stuff like that. When I say anything that could have went wrong went wrong. On top of that, two guys not liking each other or all the stuff coming out in the media and stuff like that, it was just unnecessary stuff that took place with that much talent on the team.”
Jamison’s lone season with the Lakers resulted in 76 appearances at 21.5 minutes a game, primarily in a reserve role, but nothing close to the title he hoped to finally win. He stayed in Los Angeles and signed with the Clippers with the same championship aspirations, possibly with 2013-14 as the last run before retirement, but a different role. The 37-year-old Jamison has not played in the first three outings as the start to the plan by coach Doc Rivers to use him sparingly in the regular season with the intent of being healthy and fresh for the playoffs.