Antawn Jamison Must Quickly Improve Impact to Lakers’ Bench

I have written about the need for patience during the preseason and the beginning of the regular season for the bench to start gelling and improving their contribution. The main “key to victories” in my pre-game reports thus far this month have focused on the bench providing relief for the starters. Lakers’ management did make moves to strengthen the team’s disappointing bench from last season over the summer. However, fans have not seen the new bench’s effects in action on the court so far.

When the Lakers signed Antawn Jamison, I wrote how his presence off the bench would be critical for the Lakers during the regular season and the post-season. Despite a lackluster preseason for Jamison, I stand by that statement. Jamison’s offense remains a necessity for the Lakers along with his leadership and experience that he brings to an otherwise young bench.

So far in the preseason, Jamison has posted the following averages: 4.7 points and 4.1 rebounds in 23 minutes per game on a horrible 28.6 percent field goal shooting. This is far from Jamison’s career averages of 19.5 points and 7.9 rebounds in 36.3 minutes per game on 45.1 percent shooting from the field.

Jamison recognizes his struggles during the preseason, but remains confident and positive about going into the regular season next week. He had the following to say after a recent preseason game:

“I’m getting more and more comfortable. It’s a process as far as getting your feet under you and getting yourself situated and confident with the offense and defensive schemes. I’m the type of person that once I get all of that underneath my belt, it’s like riding a bike.”

There has been some debate over which position Jamison should play the majority of the time for the Lakers. One of the intangible strengths that Jamison brings to the Lakers is his versatility of being able to play either the power forward or small forward position. Most, including myself, can easily argue that Jamison should be playing the power forward position, especially since it would seem to make the rotations smoother and more natural. However, Mike Brown has made it clear that he intends to use Jamison mostly at the three position.

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Jamison can create his own shot in the paint, but can also show his skills in the mid-range and around the perimeter. These strengths are just a small example of Jamison’s offensive game and versatility. I believe that Mike Brown is choosing to use Jamison as a three instead of Devin Ebanks, primarily because of Jamison’s ability to shoot from beyond the arc at a high clip. The Lakers were dismal at stretching the floor last season, so I feel that this is one of Brown’s solutions to address this weakness.

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Kobe Bryant recently remarked about Jamison:

“With Antawn, the way he plays, he can drop them anywhere. He’s going to be extremely effective with or without the ball. He also can shoot very well from the perimeter.”

Whether you agree with Brown’s decision of primarily using Jamison at the three spot, two things are certain:

First, the Lakers definitely need Jamison’s offense. Jamison has essentially been a starter (started in at least half of the games that he was available for) for all of the teams he has played with throughout his career, except for the Dallas Mavericks in 2003-2004, where he happened to win Sixth Man of the Year honors. Nonetheless, it has been his consistent offensive contribution that has made Jamison’s career successful.

Second, Jamison must provide credible defense, especially around the perimeter, when he plays the three position. Jamison’s defense has been a weakness throughout his career. The positive aspect concerning this, is that Mike Brown and Eddie Jordan are familiar with his defensive weakness since they both have coached Jamison in the past (Cleveland and Washington), and hopefully have solutions to hide this fact, since becoming a reliable defender in Jamison’s 15th year in the league is far-fetched.

However, Mark Medina offered some solutions for this problem and one stood out to me as the most realistic choice. Medina wrote:

Lakers Coach Mike Brown could pair Jamison with Metta World Peace or Jordan Hill. Should the roster currently stand, both World Peace and Hill remain their most physically imposing defensive players. World Peace thrives on guarding wing players both in the perimeter and the post. Hill was a surprise last year in the way he scooped up defensive rebounds and fronted post players.

So it’d only be natural for Jamison to pair with those players when he comes off the bench. Considering his ability to play both small forward and power forward, it appears seamless. The move would also allow Jamison to exert most of his focus on scoring while World Peace and Hill concentrate on defense.

We all have some feeling about the current performance of the Lakers’ bench, ranging from complete anxiety to complete calm. Jamison must lead the bench to a state of improvement and consistency. Jamison was signed for his offensive ability, versatility and experience. Now, Jamison must lead by example by first starting to improve his own performance. The sooner this happens, the quicker its effects can a become reality for the Lakers.

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