HANG TIME WEST – Asked if he expects Antawn Jamison to play anytime soon, Clippers coach Doc Rivers responded, “I hope not.”
This is a compliment.
Asked if he could have gone somewhere else with a bigger role – as in: any role – Jamison said, “Of course.”
This is a plan.
The Clippers signed Jamison for front-court depth, for his versatility to play power forward or small forward, as a positive locker-room presence and signed him for the dependability that comes with 15 seasons of experience. Most of all, though, they signed Jamison to not play him.
That was the blueprint from the beginning, when Rivers, also the head of basketball operations, all but told Jamison in August that this season would be life in semi-retirement. Jamison knew what he was getting into … or not getting into. He would not be getting into games.
The Clippers want Jamison fresh and able to contribute in April, May and June, so they rest him in October and November and probably for several months after that. He is healthy, but he is also 37. The blueprint will be followed: seven games into 2013-14, zero appearances.
“But I’ve accomplished just about everything I wanted to as an individual,” said Jamison, a two-time All-Star who also won a bronze in the world championships and won Sixth Man of the Year. “There’s nothing else for me to accomplish. For me, it’s all about winning a ring.
“With that comes sacrifice on my behalf and sacrifice for a lot of guys in this locker room as well. I knew what I was signing up for. From Day 1, whatever is asked of me to do I’m going to do it. This is the challenge – not a challenge. This is what’s asked of me to do right now. I don’t have a problem with it. As long as it’s for the sake of the team and as long as it puts us in a situation to still be playing in June, I’m definitely all for it.”
He thought he had a good shot at a championship as a starter with the Cavaliers in 2010, and that ended bad as part of what became the LeBron James farewell. Jamison thought, along with most everyone else, he had another choice opportunity as a key Lakers reserve in 2013, and it wasn’t just the ending that was bad. Now, the Clippers are his new best chance.
If sitting now leads to Jamison being the difference in a couple wins in the playoffs, the strange role will have been worth it. He will finally have the ring. With retirement on his mind anyway, the chance to celebrate his 38th birthday – June 12 – with a parade will probably nudge him to think about being able to go out on top.
“I’m still playing in practice,” Jamison said. “You’ve just got to see. My thing is, most importantly, I’m always going to stay in good shape. Mentally, just always stay in tune and make sure I’m ready when the opportunity comes. There’s little things I’m doing as far as talking to Blake [Griffifn] and [DeAndre Jordan] and those guys and making sure they see what I see out there on the court. But I’ve been waiting for this time for a long time, so whenever that opportunity comes I’m definitely going to be ready.”
Waiting for this time.
“The time to contend,” he said.
Life blanketed in bubble wrap means being healthy and sitting even with a bruised thigh costing Matt Barnes time in a hit to the front-court depth and with the Clippers keeping an eye out for another big man rather than have only Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins in reserve behind Jordan. Jamison will get the occasional cameo to experience a game flow with teammates and stay in better shape, the difference between practicing as a Clipper and actually being one, as even Rivers and Jamison admit they aren’t sure where the fine line is between rest and rust. They’ll have to find out together how this works out. In the playoffs.