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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.

West Takes Control, Pacers Respond Late To Eliminate Wizards

The Indiana Pacers used a late run to eliminate the Washington Wizards, 93-80, on Thursday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Indiana started hot, hitting seven of their first eight shots, to take an early lead they would hold until Bradley Beal hit a three in transition more than three minutes into the fourth quarter. The Pacers displayed much better energy after stinking up Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday night in their first chance to close out the series.

The defense looked better and David West and Roy Hibbert handled the glass as they controlled Marcin Gortat and Nene unlike they did in Game 5. The Wizards outrebounded the Pacers by just two, two nights after having a +39 differential. In the first half, Indiana limited their live-ball turnovers and because of that Washington failed to register a fast break point.

As bad as the Wizards looked, in terms of both execution and body language, Nene, Trevor Ariza and Andre Miller kept them within striking distance. They combined for 14 of the team's 17 points in the second frame on 5-for-10 shooting. Thanks to their contributions, the Pacers played a great first half but had just a 52-40 lead.

The third quarter was one of runs, but the Wizards had the last one of the period with a 16-4 stretch that spilled into the fourth. The tide turned when John Wall began to successfully push the ball -- the Pacers did a great job of guarding the paint and the rim through the first 30 minutes – and when Paul George and Hibbert started to show signs of exhaustion.

Washington entered the fourth down seven, but dominated the first three-plus minutes. They made four of their first five shots and took a one point lead on a Beal three at the 8:31 mark, just seconds after the 20-year-old ripped the ball out of the hands of the much larger Hibbert.

The Pacers looked to be on their heels, with George even engaging rowdy fans behind the bench at the Verizon Center, but West made sure the Wizards wouldn't be traveling back to Indianapolis for a seventh game.

After the Beal three, Washington went scoreless for the next 7:25 as the Pacers turned up their defense and the home team's inexperience reared its ugly head. A 17-2 run effectively ended the series, much like the 16-4 run Indiana used to win Game 6 on the road against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

When Nene finally stopped the bleeding with a layup, it was too late.

Washington's offense was brutal over the final eight-plus minutes. They went 2-for-13 with four turnovers and scored just six points.

In his postgame interview with Doris Burke, West said he told Frank Vogel that he wasn't going to let his team lose. He wasn't kidding. West scored eight points in the fourth quarter and finished with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists.  Perhaps more importantly, he called out his younger teammates whenever he saw something he didn't like and seemed to have an answer for every run the Wizards put together. 

After more than two months of maddening play, the Pacers are right where we all expected -- the Eastern Conference Finals against the familiar Miami Heat.

Good Lance

Lance Stephenson had his best game of the series, tallying 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He was especially aggressive in the first half, making Bradley Beal work hard on the defensive end. Stephenson had 11 points in his first 20 minutes on 5-for-7 shooting, while Beal struggled. He made just three of his first 10 shots and didn't get going until midway through the third quarter. 

Stephenson tends to over-dribble and can make poor decisions, but when the Pacers are struggling on offense he becomes a nice go-to option. His matchup with Dwyane Wade will be a focal point over the next two weeks.

Deferring To West

David West certainly put the Pacers on his back in the fourth quarter when the Wizards briefly took the lead. He wanted to take over, but when the Wizards made their run it was troubling to see the other four starters clearly deferring to him.

It wasn't until West hit a pair of jumpers to give Indiana a three-point lead that his teammates looked engaged and willing to take a big shot. Plenty of those will be needed against the Heat if the Pacers want to make it a series.

West took 26 of Indiana's 72 shots, including eight in the fourth quarter. It worked, but he had only topped 15 on one other occasion in the postseason (he attempted 20 in a must-win Game 6 against the Hawks).

In fact, the 26 attempts are the most West has tallied as a member of the Pacers. He put up 26 shots five times when he played for the New Orleans Hornets and hasn't topped that mark since Jan. 13, 2008.

Wizards Outwork Pacers, Dominate Game 5

Believe it or not, the Indiana Paces actually led at one point in Game 5 against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night. With 5:16 left in the first half, they had a 32-30 advantage with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals one victory away.

The Wizards clearly had more energy and urgency in the first quarter, but turnovers kept them from building a double-digit lead. The Pacers hung around, beginning the second with a huge run to seemingly take control of the game. When Washington didn't back down, Indiana decided they would instead.

Marcin Gortat owned the first half with 17 points and 11 rebounds on 8-for-10 shooting. He matched the entire Pacers team on the glass, while the Wizards took a 32-11 edge into the break. Still, Indiana only trailed 45-38 with 24 minutes left to flip the switch and begin preparing for their next opponent, likely the rival Miami Heat.

The Pacers had won the third quarter in each of the first four games of the semifinal series, including double-digit advantages in the last two, but the Wizards were the ones to dominate the period with their season on the line.

The Wizards outscored Indiana 31-14, outrebounded them 18-4 and essentially won the game in the third. The Pacers, who woke up for a bit in the first half and matched Washington's intensity, began packing their bags for Game 6 at the Verizon Center way too early. After winning three straight and five of six, once again there are questions surrounding the validity of Indiana's title chances. 

In garbage time, the Pacers had their best offensive quarter of the game. They scored 27 points and shot 10-for-19 from the field, but they were still outrebounded by the Wizards in the fourth quarter. Randy Wittman's second unit kept the lead intact, finishing off a 102-79 victory.

The Pacers won both games in Washington this past weekend, so the fact that the next game will be away from home isn't the problem going forward. It's the effort we saw in a close-out game at home. Not surprisingly, Charles Barkley put it best on the TNT postgame show, saying: "It's almost impossible to lose a home game in the playoffs, a close-out game, by 30 points. That's the thing that was disconcerting. In a close-out game at home. That's unbelievable."

Welcome to the 2014 playoffs, where anything the Pacers do is believable.

John Wall

After struggling in the first four games of the series, Wall put the Wizards on his back to extend their season. He outscored the Pacers 17-14 in the third quarter himself, going 6-for-8 from the field with a trio of three-pointers and just one turnover.

Wall finished the game with 27 points, five assists and five rebounds in just a little more than 33 minutes, easily his best effort against the Pacers. He also had fun doing it, barking at the crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse while clearly in a zone.

As dominant as he was in the third, Wall was aggressive from the opening tip. Losing with a chance to end the series is one thing, but waking up a slumbering All-Star point guard in the heart of the playoffs series is dangerous.

Marcin Gortat & The Boards

Gortat embarrassed the Pacers' frontline in the game. He outhustled David West and Roy Hibbert for countless rebounds and often came out on top when taking on two or three players for the basketball.

Gortat, who scored 31 points on 13-for-15 shooting, had 16 rebounds. The Pacers had just 23 as a team. Gortat went right at Hibbert on offense and needed only to put a little body on him on the other end of the floor to put himself in position for an easy defensive rebound.

He had seven of Washington's 18 offensive rebounds. The Wizards managed to only score 13 points on those second chances. The final score could have been much uglier.

The Wizards absolutely pounded the Pacers on the glass, finishing with a 62-23 advantage. During the regular season, Indiana had the third-best rebounding differential in the game (+3.5). Washington ranked eighteenth with an even mark (0.0).

Here are the rebounding differentials through five games:

Game 1: Wizards +17 (Washington win)

Game 2: Wizards +5 (Indiana win)

Game 3: Wizards +3 (Indiana win)

Game 4: Pacers +4 (Indiana win)

Game 5: Wizards +39 (Washington win)

I'm not sure if it was by design, but the Pacers spent a lot of time rushing back on defense on their own shot attempts. It may have been to keep the Wizards from getting out on the fast break, but it led to just four offensive rebounds. Washington was also still able to get out on the break because the Pacers shot 39%. They had a 17-10 edge in fast break points.

When a rebounding margin is that vast, desire and hustle are definitely a factor.

Starters vs. Bench

A game after getting all but two of their points from the starters, the Pacers saw the bench be the more productive unit. The bench scored 31 points, even though the figure is skewed due to heavier minutes in the blowout loss. 

George Hill, Paul George and Roy Hibbert combined to score 22 points on 8-for-30 shooting. Hill and George had six of Indiana's 11 turnovers.

It was strange that Frank Vogel left some of his starters in the game as long as he did. George, who admitted that he was gassed after an epic performance on Sunday night, played nearly six minutes in the fourth quarter of a game that had long been decided. He logged 39 minutes and has played at least 36 in each of his 12 playoff games. He has topped forty minutes in eight games.

George Refuses To Lose, Pacers Storm Back In Game 4

The Pacers are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals after rallying from a 19-point deficit in the third quarter on Sunday night to take Game 4 over the Wizards.

Pacers Win Low-Scoring Game 3 Over Wizards

The Pacers scored 51 points in the second half to beat the Wizards in Game 3, which featured some historically bad offense.

Hibbert Rises, Pacers Earn Split Heading To D.C.

Roy Hibbert responded to his critics with 28 points and nine rebounds when the Pacers needed him most, leading his team to an 86-82 win over the Wizards in Game 2.

Pacers Start Slow, Cough Up Home Court Once Again

Bradley Beal played like a postseason veteran in Game 1 as the Wizards beat the Pacers 102-96 and stole home court in the semifinals from the East's No. 1 seed.

RealGM's Playoff Predictions

All eight RealGM writers predict the Heat along with either the Thunder or Spurs to reach The Finals.

The Eastern Conference At The Deadline

The East deals included the only two All-Stars dealt (Antawn Jamison and Danny Granger), the two best players (Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes), and the smartest player (Professor Andre Miller, PhD).

The Seriousness Of John Wall's Pursuit Of Playoff Bid For Wizards

John Wall appears to have reached an intersection in his career where he can choose to continue dancing on the court, or veer toward a path of more meaningful and productive communication. Averaging 20 points and 9 assists per game puts Wall in a position to be viewed as an effective player, but in order to be considered a team leader Wall’s will need to do more than just score.

The Bright Spotlight: Washington Wizards

The Wizards are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. After five straight seasons of less than 30 wins each, Ernie Grunfeld might finally have the pieces to do so.

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.

Top-10 Lottery Teams That Could Make The 2014 NBA Playoffs

The Pelicans, Raptors, Pistons, Wolves, Cavaliers, Blazers, Wizards, Mavericks, and maybe even the Kings and Bobcats could find their way into the playoffs if a number of things go right.

RealGM Interview: Jan Vesely

RealGM caught up with Jan Vesely to talk about the challenges he faces in the NBA, his transition period, the Czech Republic national team and more.

30-Team Offseason Rundown

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

2013 NBA Offseason Primer

With the 2013 NBA offseason underway, here is a primer on what all 30 teams are facing.

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.

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.

The Lottery Lowdown

We have seen a whole lot of changes since the pre-Tournament issue of the Lottery Lowdown. March Madness gave us a few players to watch both this year and for 2014 while the Nike Hoop Summit and Combine helped clarify the picture in terms of athletic ability and positional versatility.

John Wall And The Max

The Wizards can negotiate with John Wall from a position of strength, but cannot afford to let a potential top-10 player get away given the recent struggles of the franchise.

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