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Antawn Jamison & The Floater Game

With training camp over and a new season underway, the odds are not good for any unsigned free agent trying to get back into the NBA. That goes double for a 37-year-old like Antawn Jamison, who played in only 22 games for the Los Angeles Clippers last season, posting career-low numbers across the board and looking like a player on his last legs after his minutes went from 33.1 per game in 11-12 with the Cleveland Cavaliers to 12-13 in 21.5 with the Los Angeles Lakers. Let’s not reduce his career to whether or not he was a Hall of Famer - either way, the guy was a monster.

For all Jamison has done in the NBA, he might be remembered best for his time at North Carolina, where he and Vince Carter combined to form one of the most explosive duos in college history. In an era where guys didn’t go pro as soon as they possibly could, Carter and Jamison led the Tar Heels to consecutive Final Fours before declaring for the 1998 draft. They wound up being taken at No. 4 and No. 5 overall, with their rights exchanged on draft night.

Jamison was the bigger star in college, winning the Wooden and Naismith Awards as a junior, but Vince was the one seemingly destined for NBA stardom. At 6’6 210 with a 40’ vertical, he was cut out of central casting for a star SG. Jamison, on the other hand, was a bit of a tweener - at 6’9 235, people wondered if he would be a SF or a PF in the NBA, while his reliance on flip shots and one-handed runners earned him an unflattering rep as a finesse player.

When projecting college players to the next level, scouts look for comparable NBA players, established guys with roughly similar games and skill-sets. With Jamison, there was really no one to compare him too - he wasn’t a post scorer, he wasn’t a three-point shooter, he wasn’t a slasher who played above the rim. He was the master of the in-between game, a guy who could get a shot off from any release point and score without dominating the ball.

After an up-and-down rookie season cut in half by the lockout, Jamison came into his own in his second season with the Golden State Warriors, averaging 19 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists a game on 47% shooting. What really put him on the map was a pair of 50-point games in back-to-back nights in December of that season, something only four other players in NBA history have done since 1964 - Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Bernard King and Allen Iverson.

By his third season, Jamison had established himself as one of the best scorers in the league, averaging 25 points per game on 45% shooting. Unfortunately, there was never much talent around him in Golden State, as they were perennially one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, yet they continued to spend lottery picks on more perimeter scorers. Jamison’s five years with the Warriors came in the middle of a 12-year playoff drought for the Warriors.

To be sure, he wasn’t helping out too much on the defensive end of the floor, a criticism that followed him throughout his NBA career. That’s where being a “tweener” really hurt him, as he was neither quick enough to stay in front of the best SF’s or big enough to match up with the best PF’s in the post. To get the most out of his talents, Jamison needed to be surrounded by defensive-minded players, which never really happened in Golden State.

He was traded to the Dallas Mavericks at the age of 27, where he became part of one of the more bizarre teams in recent NBA memory. Those Mavs featured five different players who could get 20 on a given night - Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Antoine Walker and Jamison - none of whom could play much defense. Jamison became the odd man out, forced to go the bench and play as a sixth man, almost never having plays called for him in Dallas.

With so many other guys dominating the ball, Jamison had to change his game, scoring on off-ball cuts, put-backs and run-outs. It didn’t matter, as he was the definition of a guy who could roll out of bed and get buckets - he averaged 15 points on 54% shooting and won Sixth Man of the Year. If he got the ball, it was going up. He could score in the blink of an eye, appearing out of nowhere and throwing up a shot before the defense even noticed.

The five 20-point scorer experiment in Dallas only lasted one season, as Don Nelson began to take a smaller role in the organization and the team decided to become more balanced. Jamison was traded to the Washington Wizards, where he became a two-time All-Star and had his best years in the NBA. Along with Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, he was part of a Big Three that made four straight playoff appearances in the latter half of the 2000’s.

While they only made the second round once, it was still quite an accomplishment considering the recent history of the franchise. In the previous 16 seasons, the Wizards had made the playoffs one time. That, in many ways, was the story of Jamison’s career - apart from his one season in Dallas, he was always on underachieving franchises and being asked to carry teams that didn’t play a lick of defense, which wasn’t the best use of his skill-set.

Jamison was instant offense, the rare player who could be effective in almost any context regardless of his usage rating or his teammates. His per-100 possession numbers over the course of his career were remarkably similar - it didn’t matter whether he was a primary option on a bad team (Golden State), a 6th man on a great one (Dallas) or a secondary option on a good one (Washington). He was a pure scorer and those guys are usually not 6’9. 

Instead of being surrounded by other score-first players, Jamison would have been better off on a team full of defensive-minded guys, particularly upfront. He could have carried the load for two or three guys on offense - it would have been interesting to see what he could do as the primary option on a team like Allen Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers. Better yet, he would have been an ideal complement to Iverson, since he could score without needing the ball.

Jamison only got to spend half a season on a contender, when he was picked up by the Cleveland Cavaliers at the deadline in 2010. He put up 16 points a game on 49% shooting for a team that would win 61 games, but they collapsed in the second round against the Boston Celtics. When LeBron James left town that summer, it was over. By the time he got the chance to hook up with another good team, Jamison was a 36-year-old near the end of his rope.

Maybe the most remarkable part of his career was his durability - he hardly ever got hurt despite playing huge minutes every season and putting up 20 points a game for well over a decade. He is one of the top 50 scorers in NBA history, averaging 18.5 points a game on 45% shooting for 17 seasons, which comes out to 20,042 career points, 43rd all-time. Guys like Jamison don’t come around very often and you almost never see college players with his game.

Fittingly enough, just as he is leaving the NBA, the closest guy to him in the last 17 years is entering the league. At 6’8 230, TJ Warren doesn’t shoot 3’s, post up or play above the rim. All he does is get buckets - he averaged 12 points a game on 62% shooting as a freshman at NC State and 25 points a game on 53% shooting as a sophomore. However, despite his prodigious numbers, his unorthodox game caused him to fall to the Phoenix Suns at No. 14.

Like Jamison, Warren is a master of the running floater. There’s no way to guard a 6’8 guy who only needs a sliver of space to get a shot off within 15 feet of the basket. Either you play off him and he scores or you crowd him, he blows past you and he scores. Help-side doesn’t do much good either, as he gets the shot off so quickly that he freezes the shot-blocker. The question is whether Warren can make those shots at the same rate as Jamison in the NBA.

Jamison’s career was built around making terrible shots every night for 15 years. There are not many guys out there who can consistently make running 12-footers over two defenders. He was an athletic 6’9 guy with a high basketball IQ who knows how to put the ball in the basket - a guy like that can be a really good player for a really long time. Jamison made $142 million dollars in 17 seasons in the NBA. He must have been pretty good at basketball.

How Boozer Fits With Lakers, Julius Randle

On the surface, the Los Angeles Lakers' acquisition of Carlos Boozer doesn't make a lot of sense. At 32 and going into his 13th season in the NBA, Boozer is on his last legs. He's going from starter on a good team to starter on a bad team and there’s little chance he makes it back. If he plays on a contender again, it will be as a reserve. The Lakers are signing Boozer to put up empty numbers while blocking the development of Julius Randle, the No. 7 overall pick in the draft.

However, as weird as it might seem at first glance, Boozer could be the perfect veteran mentor for a young PF like Randle. His steep decline with the Chicago Bulls, as well as his hefty contract, has masked how good a player he was in his prime. Boozer is a two-time All-Star with a gold medal on his resume who has made over $125 million dollars in the NBA. Not many guys taken at No. 7 end up with that type of career, much less ones who fall all the way to No. 34.

For all his flaws, it's hard to consider Boozer's career anything but a resounding success. Once you get out of the first round, NBA teams are just hoping to find guys who can stick in the league and possibly crack a rotation. Glen Davis, the No. 35 overall pick in 2007, has had an excellent career for a second round pick and he's never been able to hold down a starting job. Boozer was a starter on two teams who made the Conference Finals - the 2007 Jazz and the 2011 Bulls.

Despite averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds a game on 66% shooting as a junior at Duke, Boozer fell in the 2002 draft because of concerns about his tools. At 6’9 260, he had only average size for an NBA PF and he didn’t have the type of exceptional athleticism that would allow him to make up for it. The odds were stacked against him - he entered the league without a guaranteed contract and had to earn his way onto the roster, much less the starting line-up.

After two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boozer signed with the Utah Jazz in fairly controversial fashion and immediately became one of the building blocks for an up-and-coming team. In his first season with the Jazz, he averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds on 52% shooting. From 2006-2010, Utah was one of the best teams in the NBA. They won an average of 51 games a year, got out of the first round three times and advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2007.

The Jazz were one of the main reasons why Tracy McGrady never made it out of the first round, as they knocked a 50+ win Rockets team out of the playoffs in 2006 and 2007. With Boozer and Mehmet Okur, Utah had two big men who could make it rain 20+ feet from the basket and drag Yao Ming out of the paint. Since they ran so much of their offense through the post, it negated Houston's ability to defend on the perimeter with McGrady, Shane Battier and Ron Artest.

Those Jazz teams aren't remembered that well because they had a stumbling block of their own - the Lakers. As effective as Boozer was when matched up with a slower defender like Yao, there was little he could do against a frontcourt duo as long, skilled and athletic as Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. L.A. beat Utah in the playoffs three years in a row - they gave the Jazz problems upfront with the power game (Bynum and Gasol) and with the speed game (Gasol and Odom).

Against elite competition, Boozer's physical limitations were exposed. The same happened in 2011, when the Bulls were the No. 1 seed and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Boozer wasn't quite big or athletic enough to dominate the Heat's undersized front-line. If Derrick Rose had stayed healthy and they had gotten another chance at the Big Three, the Bulls likely would have closed games with Taj Gibson, a much better defender than Boozer.

Boozer never had Randle's physical tools - he was only as successful as he was because he was a fundamentally sound player, at least on the offensive side of the ball. In his prime, Boozer was automatic from mid-range and was very effective with his back to the basket. He didn't make the game any harder on himself than necessary and he knew how to leverage his strength to create good looks at the basket. These are things Randle will need to learn as he tries to navigate the NBA paint.

Like most college big men, Randle will have a big adjustment process at the next level.­­­­ He goes from big fish in a small pond to a medium sized fish in an ocean. For the first time in his life, he will no longer be one of the biggest players on the floor. He might have seen a half-dozen NBA caliber big men at Kentucky - he will see that many in a weekend in the NBA. He needs a more consistent jumper and he needs to learn how to finish with his right hand around the basket.

These aren't things that will happen for him overnight, which isn’t a huge deal. Randle is only 19 - if he had stayed four years in school, he would have been in the 2017 draft. The Lakers don't need to put a ton of pressure on him in the first few months of his career. Playing him behind an established veteran like Boozer will force him to earn his way on the floor and it will give his coach the leeway to bench him if he's not doing the right things or developing good habits. 

Unless the Lakers are contending for a playoff spot in March and April, Randle will eventually get as much floor time as he can handle as a rookie. There's no need to force-feed him minutes on a bad team in November and December. Boozer is 32 and Randle is 19 - Randle was in first grade when Boozer entered the league. There's a lot he could learn from him, both on and off the court.  And if Randle learns a few things, this season won't be a total waste for the Lakers.

Names To Watch As Lakers Search For Next Head Coach

With the reluctance of coaching next season as a lame duck, Mike D’Antoni abruptly stepped down—while still making $4 million in salary next season. Consequently, this meant the next head coach hire would count for the price of three (Lakers still owe Mike Brown up to $5 million).

Jim Buss knows he has been on thin ice with the fan base and the media ever since the mishandling of the Phil Jackson fiasco. Recently, Buss informed his family that he would step down in three or four years time if the Lakers were not contenders by then. Buss finally understands that the next coaching hire will likely define his tenure as the chief of Lakers management.

During the process of hiring the Lakers last head coach, Buss opted for the team to abandon the slow system triangle players and focus more on bringing the ‘Showtime Lakers’ back. Obviously, we all know how that turned out. While we have no idea to the mindset of direction that Buss plans to take this franchise, we can get a good idea from the list of candidates that have surfaced the past couple of days. 

Hard-Nose, Half-Court, Scrappy Defensive Style

- Byron Scott

With 13 years as head coach experience and having led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals over a decade ago, former Showtime member Byron Scott has already made it known publicly that he is interested in the head coaching vacancy of the Lakers. Scott brings an old school, no-nonsense approach that would definitely appease the mind of Kobe Bryant. The combination of a Scott hiring for the Lakers and the uncertainty of Kyrie Irving’s willingness to sign an extension this summer will definitely generate speculation of a possible Kyrie-Scott reunion in Hollywood. At least one source told Bleacher Report Ric Bucher that this was a legitimate direction that management are currently mulling over.

- Jeff Van Gundy

It would take quite a bit to lure Jeff Van Gundy from the comforting television commentating seats of ESPN; nevertheless the Lakers have always had Van Gundy high on their head-coaching list. Up and coming Bobcats coach Steve Clifford and defensive guru Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau were both assistants with Van Gundy during the early 2000 Knick years. Both Clifford and Thibodeau reciprocate the scrappy physical defensive mindset that Van Gundy was known for as head coach. 

- Lionel Hollins

Fresh off leading the Grizzles to the Western Conference Finals last season, Hollins has been a name that has floated with any available NBA head coaching vacancy since he was fired. Hollins would bring a tough-minded, grit and grind approach, but it also could come at a cost. Hollins was fired by Memphis because he had butted heads with Grizzles executives on multiple of occasions. With Hollins’ limited offensive creativity, it would be difficult to see the Buss family hiring Hollins, especially given what happened when offensive incompetent Mike Brown coached the Lakers. 

- Ettore Messina

The four-time Euroleague champion Ettore Messina would provide the glamour hire that the Lakers have always been known for. Having worked with the Lakers as recently as the 2012 season, Messina served as an assistant/consultant to Mike Brown. Bryant and Lakers management share the same affinity for Euroleague legend Messina. He demands a slow tempo, half-court system style of play on both sides of the ball. His stubborn coaching mentality may clash with personalities like Bryant, but Messina is known as coaching his best in the fourth quarter.

Up-Tempo, Free Flowing, Efficient Offensive Style

- George Karl

If the front office enjoyed the offensive flow and up-tempo style that D’Antoni bought to Staples Center, then Karl would be an ideal fit. Like his disciple Terry Scotts—who is flourishing as coach with the Blazers—Karl runs a high efficiency, equal opportunity offense that would be entertaining to watch. He could create a strong cohesive bond amongst the younger players similar to what he did with the young players on Denver. Given Karl’s track record of demanding ample control of the team roster, the Lakers do not seem like a likely fit.

Collegiate Coaches

- John Calipari

On the day of the NCAA Championship, former Kentucky legend Rex Chapman tweeted that Kentucky insiders told him that Calipari was headed to the Lakers, which caused a media frenzy. Since then, Calipari has asserted his intentions to stay at Kentucky, but we have seen this act before. Akin to how Calipari’s last NBA stint turned out, a Calipari-Lakers marriage could end with a messy divorce. Calipari commands complete control of the roster, and we know that the Lakers front office will not tolerate that.

- Kevin Ollie

As inexperienced as Ollie is, he managed to guide his UConn squad to a national championship. The Lakers have already publicly announced that they would be checking in to see Ollie’s interest. Ollie’s stock will never be as high as it currently is, yet Ollie has expressed his desire to remain at his alma mater UConn. Unlike Calipari, Ollie is still considered inexperienced as a coach and would be a much better fit than Calipari for someone to jump into the professional ranks.

Wildcard?

- Derek Fisher

Considering that Fisher is still playing in the league and without any coaching experience, he should be considered a long shot. Adrian Wojnarowski threw out Fisher as someone the Lakers should seriously consider, and it seems like a perfect fit to the puzzle. With the current state of the roster and the instability of the Laker front office, Fisher could provide the Lakers with a cheap coaching option and the willingness to go through the growing pains with a young roster next season. Furthermore, it does not hurt that Kobe’s must trusted basketball ally is Fisher—as they won five titles together.

D'Antoni's Departure Won't Fix Lakers

It is extremely difficult for a franchise to completely avoid periods of rebuilding, even one as storied as the Lakers. The issues facing Mitch Kupchak and the Buss Family didn't begin with D'Antoni, and they certainly won't end because he's gone.

Lakers' New Reality

With a likely top-6 pick and an ever-competitive West, the Lakers must adjust to their reality: theyíre rebuilding. But their resources and history will allot a chance to eventually return among the NBA elite.

The Western Conference At The Deadline

The Western Conference is highly competitive this season, but that didn't carry over to a deadline in which Steve Blake was the most important acquisition after the Rockets were unable to cash in their Omer Asik chip.

Ranking The Best Five Draft Fits For The Lakers

The Lakers rarely have high picks and this draft will prove extremely important for Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss to select a potential superstar as a successor to Kobe Bryant.

Why Kendall Marshall Is Unlikely To Be Lakers' Long-Term Answer At Point Guard

Kendall Marshall became a free agent before the start of his second season in the NBA, but injuries created a huge opportunity for him with Mike D'Antoni and the Lakers.

Western Conference Twice As Good, Nine Degrees Warmer

The Western Conference is nine degrees warmer on average than the Eastern Conference, which must be considered as a factor in why it has been a far deeper conference over the past two decades.

The Points In The Paint Separation Between Contenders, Pretenders

The category of points in the paint is clearly important enough to be on the box score. You could argue that it should be at the top of the box score instead of the bottom. Itís the one stat that can determine how dominate a team can be either offensively or defensively or both.

A Brave New World For Los Angeles, New York

Strangely, none of the major market teams have the competitive advantage of their location and a top-flight organizational reputation. History and money are still (largely) on their sides but players have become more conscious of organizational quality in recent years.

30 Rapid-Fire Questions For Each Team's Front Office

The following 30 questions are the biggest issues facing each NBA front office as the 13-14 regular season begins.

30-Team Offseason Rundown

Great drafts for the Rockets, 76ers, Nets, Warriors, Hawks and Grizzlies headline this complete rundown of the 2013 offseason.

Star By Star

If the owners want to make it harder for superstars to switch teams, they have to increase the financial incentives for them to stay. Otherwise, franchises with one All-Star will forever be looking over their shoulder. To paraphrase Sean Parker, having two stars isnít cool. Having three is.

Leroux's 2013 NBA Draft Review

Breaking down all 30 teams by category of how they fared in the often surprising, never disappointing 2013 NBA Draft.

On Dwight Howard, Defense, History

Pundits like Bill Simmons can look at a year Dwight Howard was hurt and a year where he played in a system that minimized his strengths and magnified his weaknesses to write him off using pithy garbage like personality, but analyzing production and talent over conjecture will always win out.

The Logistics Of Dwight Ending Up With Golden State

Getting Dwight Howard sits within the realm of possibility for the Warriors, but it would come at a steep, steep cost unless the Lakers are more generous than expected. Wasting their amnesty on Charlie Bell and using 2013 cap space to acquire a pick last season is again continuing to hurt them.

2013 NBA Amnesty Primer

One fun component of the Amnesty rule is that we know exactly which players are eligible for it and that number can only decrease over time since the players had to have been under contract with the same team before the new CBA.

Dwight Howard's Choices

An unrestricted free agent for the first time in his nine-year career, Dwight Howard will have to choose the franchise that best positions him to grow as a player and compete for championships. The time has come for Howard to decide whether he wants to be an all-time great player, or just a player that was good for his time.

Realities Changing For Lakers

In the past, a player could easily be swayed to come to play for the Lakers. Who wouldn't want to play for a franchise with such a rich history and strong fanbase? Who wouldn't want to play for the Buss family and add to the tradition? But the NBA has changed and so has the perception.

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