Wizards wise to bypass bringing back Jamison

Wizards wise to bypass bringing back Jamison
July 4, 2013, 7:15 pm
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All along, the Wizards had their minds set on Eric Maynor, Martell Webster and Garrett Temple as free-agent targets. They moved fast.

The question being asked frequently now that they appear to be done is, “What about Antawn Jamison?”

The 6-9 power forward, who played last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, played in Washington from 2004-10. He has career averages of 18.8 points and 7.6 rebounds and has been an All-Star twice.

Reports floated that he was considering a return to D.C., and that there was mutual interest in a reunion.

That probably was overselling matters a bit, a person with knowledge of the situation told CSN Washington recently. Another person had assured CSN more than a month ago that Temple's return was all but certain to return long before Jamison's name arose. Of course, these are fluid situations, priorities can quickly change and what was true one day might not be the next. 

True, the Wizards need a pick-and-pop option to make John Wall more effective when playing the two-man game within the game.

But president Ernie Grunfeld had made it clear before the draft, though many will disagree, that he believes he has a player on his roster who can fill that void. He didn't specify whom, but it certainly isn't Trevor Booker or Jan Vesely.

Could it be Chris Singleton, who may be undersized at 6-8 and is coming off a miserable second season when he played in just 57 games, averaged 4.1 points and shot less than 40% from the field and less than 20% from three-point range? The Wizards have to figure out their logjam there first, who they can depend on, who they can move and who should be cut loose. 

Jamison played for the minimum salary, less than $854,000, with the Lakers. It was his only season there as he chased a championship with Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. The result was a tumultuous season, 45 wins and a first-round playoff exit.

But he’s 37 and averaged career lows of 9.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 22 minutes per game. Those were his lowest totals since rookie season in 1998-99.

A veteran such as Jamison is willing to take short money if it means he can possibly make a run at a championship. The Wizards, who will have 14 players under contract when they officially sign 2013 rookie draft picks Otto Porter and Glen Rice, don’t have the room even though they have one empty roster spot. They used their exceptions to retain Webster and lure Maynor. 

The re-signing of Temple to the veteran minimum on Wednesday eats up about $916,000. He’s a 6-6 guard who can handle the ball, defend multiple positions, occasionally knock down the open jump shot and he’s only 28.

In other words, his upside and value is far greater right now even though Jamison is a more accomplished player overall. Passing up Temple, or any young player of his caliber, for Jamison probably would've been the wrong move. How good he was in the past has nothing to do with the now. And in a year or two, you're in the same predicament with needing a stretch four. 

And let's temper the nostalgia. When Jamison was here, his veteran presence did nothing to calm a volatile locker room. In fact, his voice was rarely heard, and we all know what eventually transpired. He's not going to hurt your locker room culture, but I'm not convinced he's going to have a major impact on it. 

There’s no need to go backwards and dig up the past. Seeing Jamison in a Wizards uniform could bring back a lot of those questions about a subject that's probably better off left alone.

Finding long-term solutions are imperative. The salaries of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza come off the books next season which would free up $22 million under the salary cap. Or depending on how the battle for playing time shakes out among all the other forwards, the Wizards will have trade assets that can lure a pick-and-pop option closer to his prime than Jamison.

Of course, an epiphany or injury or two could change everything.  A lot can happen between now and the start of the season.

There's no need for the Wizards to rush. The rest of free agency has to shake out. Summer league will be over in two weeks, and then they'll know exactly what their best options are.  

If Jamison turns out to be the best answer then, so be it. Hopefully, the Wizards' ability to make the playoffs next season doesn't hinge on Jamison. If it does, then they have much bigger issues to address.