INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP)—While breaking down game tape during a serious film session, the Cleveland Cavaliers sometimes will break into laughter.
“I hear the giggles,” Jamison said Monday. “I’m used to it.”
Floaters. Runners. Underhanded scoops. From odd, almost impossible angles, Jamison can make just about any shot.
Currently, he’s shooting for something else: an NBA title.
Acquired in a February trade from Washington to take pressure off LeBron James(notes) and serve in a supporting role to the superstar, Jamison scored 24 points in Sunday’s 121-98 win over the Chicago Bulls that gave Cleveland a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.
The Cavs can advance to the second round with a win in Game 5 on Tuesday, and Jamison believes they better put away their young, stubborn opponent.
“If you want to be a championship-caliber team and you’ve got a team on the brink, you’ve got to find a way to get it done,” Jamison said. “We realize this is a great opportunity and we have to take advantage.”
Jamison would know.
The 12-year veteran, who played with Golden State, Dallas and Washington before joining the Cavs, was once part of a young, talent-rich Wizards team that was on the verge of being a perennial title contender when it all fell apart.
In his second season with Washington, the Wizards beat Chicago in the first round before being eliminated by Miami. Jamison figured they’d go further the next time, but James and the Cavaliers eliminated Washington in the first round the next three years.
At one point, Jamison feared he had missed his title shot.
“It was very frustrating,” he said. “You start asking questions like: Why is this happening? You were part of a franchise that was so promising a few years ago and all of a sudden you don’t know what’s going to happen. You go from that to there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
At 33, Jamison, is running out time.
It’s now, or maybe, never for Jamison.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “I don’t have another five or 10 years left in this body. The sense of urgency is there, not only with myself but with the rest of these guys. That’s why I think it’s a great fit because we all have the same mentality. We are all trying to accomplish the same thing—right now. We’re not trying to wait until next year or the year after that.”
The Bulls, meanwhile, are fighting for survival.
After stunning the Cavs in Game 3, they had no match in Game 4 for James, who added to his postseason legacy by totaling 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. James highlighted his fifth career playoff triple-double with a pair of buzzer-beating shots, including a 42-foot jumper to end the third period.
Chicago may have missed its chance, and now the Bulls face a win-or-see-you-next-season scenario at less than full speed.
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, facing an uncertain future in Chicago, expects both Rose and Deng to play.
Del Negro’s biggest challenge is devising a plan to slow the Cavaliers, who are no longer a one-man band. With James, Jamison, O’Neal and Mo Williams(notes), Cleveland has four players capable of carrying the load and the Cavs’ deep bench seems bottomless.
“It’s not one guy. I thought yesterday that Antawn played very well for them,” Del Negro said. “They isolate him on the wings and it’s very tough to cover him one-on-one.”
Jamison’s size and speed make him a difficult, if not impossible, matchup. His range spreads a defense, forcing big men to come out where they aren’t comfortable. Jamison also can post up smaller players, backing them down before beating them with one of his patented scoops.
While James has his own arsenal of shots, even he can’t match Jamison’s.
“All my seven years in the NBA, I’ve always said ‘Tawn is the most unorthodox guy we have,”’ James said. “He makes shots that I’ve never seen. It’s hard to guard a guy like that. It’s effective. I’m glad he’s on our side.”
And not just because he can score.
Jamison is one of the most respected players in the league. On Monday, he finished fourth in voting for the Joe Dumars Trophy, given to the player who best exhibits the ideals of sportsmanship. Jamison has been an ideal fit for the Cavs—on and off the floor.
“A big, big, big, big-time guy,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “He’s special. You couple that with his ability to play and you’ve got the whole package.”
Jamison credits his respect for the game to Dean Smith, his coach at North Carolina, and his parents.
“You have to carry yourself in a certain manner,” Jamison said. “My parents raised me the right way.”
His father, Albert, also may have helped Jamison develop his unique shooting touch. Albert Jamison accidentally put up an 11-foot-high basket and not a 10-footer at their home, forcing his son always aim a little higher.
“It comes natural,” Jamison said of his unusual delivery. “In the summer time, I’m not in the gym working on it or trying to perfect it at all. It’s nothing I work on.
“But as long as that ball keeps going in the basket, I’m happy.”