Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss have absolutely put together a great, improved roster this summer. In fact, many have debated that this has been the most successful offseason in Laker history. The additions and changes that Lakers management has made over the past couple of months have quickly catapulted the team from Finals hopefuls to Finals favorites. The Lakers have become “the team to beat” not only in the Western Conference, but the entire league.
With the monster coverage of the signings of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard by the sports media world, other smaller signings that occurred in the summer have not received as much of the spotlight.
This is quite understandable when essentially everyone was shocked by the fact that Nash chose the Lakers despite his history with L.A., and the fact that Howard in purple and gold represents present and future success.
However, those “smaller” signings I just referred to could make the ultimate difference in the upcoming season, especially in the playoffs. These “smaller” signings consisted of moves made in order to improve last season’s, to be frank, horrible bench.
At the start of the off-season, Kupchak reported that they would not be making any major moves and would rather focus on upgrading the second unit. Well, I think everyone can agree that Nash and Howard are major moves, but can also agree that management made good on their word to improve the bench.
The Lakers were able to re-sign Jordan Hill and Devin Ebanks and recently acquired free agent Jodie Meeks. These players each provide energy, athleticism and much needed outside shooting respectively, while all adding youth. Earl Clark and Chris Duhon came to LA as part of the Howard deal, bringing versatility, athleticism and the ability to improve the defense of the second unit.
All of these acquisitions without doubt make definitive improvements to the reserves. However, it is a veteran signing that makes the biggest impact to the Lakers’ bench and will make an imprint on the overall success of the Lakers as a team.
Of course, I am referring to Antawn Jamison. In late July, the Lakers were able to snag the 14-year veteran for a veteran’s minimum contract worth $1.4 million for one year. This is amazing in itself considering Jamison made over $15 million last year alone with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As evidenced in his willingness to play for less, Jamison has made a substantial amount of money over his career and is still searching for a ring. Jamison is at the point in his career where a ring is priority number one, and he seems to be will to do anything to achieve this as discussed in the video below.[lakersnation_player file=”http://youtu.be/nz9nnKEWJPY” autostart=”false”] http://youtu.be/nz9nnKEWJPY
This includes transitioning to a smaller role than he has been accustomed to during the past several seasons, especially with Cleveland. When Jamison joined the Cavs in 2009, it was still LeBron James’ team. That changed when James joined Miami two seasons ago and the Cavs became primarily a Jamison-led team as a result. However, finding his role off the bench should not be totally foreign to him as he did earn the Sixth Man of the Year award for the 2003-04 season during his time with the Dallas Mavericks.
Jamison has been given a path to be the outright leader of the Lakers’ bench and could potentially set himself up for his second Sixth Man of the Year award. Jamison is familiar with Mike Brown and his philosophy, which is an added bonus. He will boost the second unit’s offensive contribution, while serving as the veteran voice to the young bench.
Jamison adds versatility as a forward who can be used as a power forward despite his probable assignment of small forward. The area that draws the most concern for Jamison’s play is his defense, which he is very aware of. As he put it in his press conference to introduce him as a Laker:
“I definitely have improved, and not as much a negative on the defensive end early on in my career… The better defensive team you are, the better your chances are. Not to knock any of the teams I’ve been on, but as you get older, you understand the importance of it.”
“You understand how to put yourself in better positions, not get blown by defensively or not be reliable on the defensive end. I’ll tell you one thing. I’m gonna work hard and I’m gonna give you my all. You won’t be able to say he’s the weak link to this defensive team or to this puzzle. Whether it’s offensively, defensively or in the locker room, I always found a way to get it done and I expect the same thing when this season gets started as well.”
It is pretty incredible that a player who was the first and sometimes second option for a team’s offense last season will be the sixth or so option for the Lakers offense this upcoming season. Yet, it is an assignment Jamison is excited about and anticipates if it means that the team will be successful from it. Jamison’s new role as the Lakers’ sixth man will be absolutely key during the season and in the post-season.
Remember, a lot of seasons and playoff series have been and will continue to be affected by the sixth man. Take the impact of Jason Terry in Dallas, Manu Ginobili in San Antonio or Lamar Odom in LA as recent examples. Antawn Jamison certainly has the ability to follow the paths of these three other sixth men and finish his career with the ultimate award, a championship.