Antawn Jamison’s role has been curtailed, his pay drastically reduced.
His opportunity to win a first NBA title?
That’s one enhancement the Lakers could offer the veteran forward after 14 seasons that ended without so much as a trip to a conference final.
“It was one of those scenarios that you kind of dream that can somehow form or take place,” Jamison said Wednesday at the Lakers’ training facility after officially signing a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum of $1.4 million.
Jamison, 36, will come off the bench after starting 858 of 985 games, including all 65 last season with Cleveland. His contract amounts to a 90.7% reduction in salary from the $15.1 million he made last season with the Cavaliers.
And he said he couldn’t be happier after picking the Lakers over other suitors that included his hometown Charlotte Bobcats.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a season to get started,” Jamison said.
The 6-foot-9 Jamison can play both forward positions, meaning he will back up small forward Metta World Peace and power forward Pau Gasol. With career averages of 19.5 points and 7.9 rebounds, Jamison should significantly bolster a bench that last season produced a league-worst 21.3 points a game in the regular season.
The Lakers’ reserves were further fortified when the team also officially confirmed the signing of power forward Jordan Hill, who agreed to a two-year, $7-million contract. General Manager Mitch Kupchak said he also would look to add “maybe a backcourt player” to the bench.
In the meantime, Kupchak said he had begun “productive and positive” discussions with center Andrew Bynum’s agent on a long-term contract extension, though no agreement was imminent.
Kupchak said the signing of Jamison at what amounted to a bargain-bin price was “just as surprising” as the team’s ability to acquire future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash this month through the use of a traded-player exception.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we think we could get either player,” Kupchak said.
Kupchak ticked off a list of Jamison’s attributes, including leadership, experience, scoring ability and rebounding. When he got to defense, which is considered Jamison’s primary weakness, Kupchak paused to glance at Jamison, who smiled.
The two-time All-Star said he had improved in that category.
“I think as you get older, you understand the importance of it,” Jamison said. “You understand how to put yourself in better positions not to get blown by defensively or be unreliable on the defensive end.”
Jamison previously played with Nash during the 2003-04 season in Dallas and played under Lakers Coach Mike Brown for four months after Jamison was traded to Cleveland in February 2010.
At that point, Jamison thought he was finally on the verge of an NBA title, but the Cavaliers lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals and LeBron James soon departed for Miami.
That left Jamison to help prop up the rebuilding Cavaliers for the next two seasons.
With the Lakers, Jamison will be a complementary piece of what he hopes is a championship roster.
“It’s a perfect fit,” he said. “I don’t have to come in and totally have everything on my shoulders. Just come in and pretty much play my game.”