Jamison happy to be part of team that 'could win'

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - When the word filtered out last week that he had been traded to the Washington Wizards, Antawn Jamison just happened to be standing next to one of his new teammates, center Brendan Haywood, in a Chapel Hill, N.C., sports bar.

And since the two are part of the North Carolina basketball fraternity, playing together for one year, Jamison is expecting a "Carolina discount" when he approaches Haywood to surrender No. 33. That's the number Jamison has worn during his career, from North Carolina to Golden State and Dallas in the NBA.


Jamison was introduced to the local media yesterday after last Thursday's draft-night deal brought him to Washington from the Mavericks with cash, in exchange for forward/center Christian Laettner, guard/forward Jerry Stackhouse and the rights to the fifth overall draft choice, Wisconsin guard Devin Harris.

"There's been a smile on my face," since the trade was struck, Jamison said.


That might seem surprising to some given the Wizards' 25-57 record and sixth-place finish in the Atlantic Division. But Jamison, who won the NBA's Sixth Man award, averaging 14.8 points a game off the bench for Dallas, says he thinks Washington is on the verge of something special and wants to be a part of it.

"This is a situation where we could win," Jamison said. "I experienced going to the playoffs for the first time last year and I don't want that to be my only opportunity to make it to the playoffs. With the group of young talent that we have here, this is probably as much talent as you have in the league in terms of young guys."

Besides reuniting with Haywood, Jamison will be re-teamed with guards Larry Hughes and Gilbert Arenas, whom he played with at Golden State. The Warriors didn't advance to the postseason during the combined four seasons the three played in Oakland, but they demonstrated that they could play together.

"He's been around and you kind of see what you get," said Hughes, who played three seasons with Jamison before coming to Washington in 2002-03. "He's good around the basket. ... You can't beat that. For a guy that's as good as he is around the basket, that's good to know that he's going to convert. And if he doesn't convert, he's going to get the rebound and put it back in."

That is not insignificant for a Wizards team whose frontcourt players averaged 27.6 points a game, the lowest in the NBA. The 6-foot-9 Jamison, who has averaged 19.1 points per game in six seasons, will start at small forward, with the flexibility to play power forward in a smaller lineup.

"We know what we'll get from Antawn," said Washington coach Eddie Jordan. "He's experienced, he can score, he can run the floor, he can rebound the ball and he knows how to play at the offensive end. Obviously, there are some defensive improvements that we'd like to have, not just from him, but the entire team."

With the trade, Jamison, who turned 28 two weeks ago, becomes the oldest player under contract on the Washington roster, meaning his leadership will be as vital as his scoring.

The presence of Jamison, who will earn $12.6 million this season, means the Wizards will likely be unable to make a big splash in the free-agent market, but that's not a major concern to Washington brass, provided the young talent develops.


"Antawn has shown us on a consistent basis what he can do," said Ernie Grunfeld, Washington's president of basketball operations. "He's been a 20-point scorer in this league, so you can pencil him in one of those boxes, and we know what he can provide for us. We have a lot of confidence in those young players and what they can accomplish, but they still need a little developing. We might have all the pieces right here. We have to let the team grow a little bit."

Grunfeld said the team has interest in retaining one of those pieces, reserve center Etan Thomas, a restricted free agent who can begin talking to clubs Thursday. Thomas can receive formal offers on July 15, but the Wizards can retain the 6-9 former Syracuse player by matching any offer sheet he receives. Grunfeld has said the team wants to keep Thomas, but has not indicated what would be too expensive for the club.