|The Big One: Jamison carries the load for undermanned Wizards|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 20 April 2007 11:38|
WASHINGTON (AP) -Antawn Jamison hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, then let out a ``Wooo!'' as he backpedalled down the court. He pointed at a smiling Caron Butler, who was riding a stationary bike behind the goal during practice Friday.|
These days, Jamison is the man for the Washington Wizards, the Big One now that two of the Big Three are injured. If there is any hope for an upset of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Jamison will have to lead the way.
``He's the leading scorer now,'' forward Jarvis Hayes said. ``He's definitely been more assertive on offense. We've got to do our job to make his job not as hard. It's definitely going to be harder now because teams are going to be keying on him more than ever.''
Everyone's role has changed since All-Stars Gilbert Arenas (knee) and Butler (hand) were injured less than three weeks ago, but Jamison has perhaps been affected the most. He no longer can bide his time and find open space because the defenders are looking elsewhere, and he certainly can no longer afford to have an off night with his two buddies not there to compensate.
``He's not looking to play off of them like he will sometimes do,'' coach Eddie Jordan said. ``He is the guy that it's going to - we're playing off of him. That's a big difference. He's got to be the passer, he's got to be the setup guy, he's got to be the scorer.''
Jamison is familiar with the feeling, but it's been a while. He was the go-to guy for several seasons with the Golden State Warriors and even scored 51 points in back-to-back games in 2000.
Since arriving in Washington in 2004, however, he's played the role of sage veteran to counter the impulsive rising star Arenas. His stats in recent years have been remarkably consistent - he's usually good for 20 points and eight rebounds per game. He averaged 19.4 and exactly 8.0 this regular season.
Now, since the injuries to Arenas and Butler, Jamison is having to resist the temptation to carry the team on his shoulders alone.
``There's no way,'' Jamison said. ``That how you get yourself in trouble. If you try to say - 'Oh, I've got the pressure, I've got to do this' - c'mon, man, it's impossible. To do the things that Gilbert does and Caron does, you can't do it by yourself.''
Jamison's numbers were all over the place in the last eight games of the regular season. He scored 27, 37, 26, 11, 4, 8, 48 and 19 points. He had an 11-for-20 shooting game and a 1-for-7. The 48 points against Orlando were a season-high, but he admitted that night that he got a ``bit too selfish.''
And, frustratingly for Jamison, the efforts have produced little payoff. The Wizards are 2-6 without Arenas and Butler. Most of the games have been close down the stretch, but there's not enough talent on the floor to help close the deal.
``We've got to make it up as a team,'' Jamison said. ``Of course, you have to do a little bit more offensively, but there's no way you can say that, on my own, I've got to make up the slack for those two guys. WE have to pick up the slack.''
Nevertheless, Jamison will be the focus when the Wizards play Game 1 against the Cavaliers on Sunday. Even if he can't do it all alone, his team will look to him for more points, more rebounds - and even more on-court leadership.
``It's what we miss in Gil and Caron,'' Jordan said. ``They're personalities were so strong, emotionally and confidence-wise. So we had to wean ourselves off of Gil and Caron, and so now Antawn's the guy the personality (of the team) is shifting to.''
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