April 26, 2010
Giving too much credit to the various X-factors this league boasts about is always a dangerous thing. It allows for commentators to come up with analysis that runs along the lines of, "[all-world player] might be the team's MVP, but [pretty good player] is clearly the team's most important player," and, no, that's really never the case.
The team's MVP is the team's most important player. It always has been and it always will be. What these commentators are really trying to say is that it would be nice for the pretty good player to play pretty well.
That's about it. Doesn't make him the team's most important player, but a great game from the pretty good player can put an otherwise sound team over the top.
Antawn Jamison(notes) wasn't Cleveland's most important or most valuable player on Sunday, not with LeBron James(notes) contributing a triple-double (37 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) in the Game 4 win, but the recent addition to the Cavaliers lineup no doubt let out a deep, contented sigh following his 24-point performance. Jamison hasn't been struggling terribly as a Cav, but he has been waiting for a game like this for a while.
Twenty-four points for Jamison in the win, with 12 coming in a third quarter that saw the Cavaliers take this from a solid advantage to a sure blowout. And the scoring was done Jamison-style. That is to say, with every trick in the book at his disposal.
Runners, put-backs, a 3-pointer, long jumpers, drives and finishes, and that floater.
Oh, that floater.
To call it "awkward-looking" wouldn't be doing it justice, because while it isn't exactly awkward, the floater is a bit unorthodox in its release point. Antawn doesn't shoot the ball at the apex of his jump, with his arms fully extended. Instead, he shoots as he's approaching the apex, confusing defenders that have been used to contesting shots released at the highest point of a jump since grade school.
So by the time the defender has steeled himself to send this one back into the 10th row, the shot has been released, and it's probably into the goaltending stage of its particular arc. It's a particular type of art that Jamison seems to have perfected.
Jamison, after deflecting as much praise as he could to James and even Shaquille O'Neal(notes) (six points, seven rebounds, two turnovers, five fouls in Game 4) after the game, admits that he has "no idea" how he developed the floater, but that he's "confident in it. It really throws my opponent off."
The 12-year forward mentioned following Game 4 that the Cavaliers wanted to make his driving and penetration abilities an emphasis, to take advantage of that floater and possibly put the Bulls in a penalty situation, but you'd have a hard time telling with Jamison's first and third shots coming from 23 and 21 feet, respectively, both in the faces of hard close-outs that could have been driving past. But general distrust of Jamison's scoring instincts at this point in his career seems pretty foolish.
Because he mixed it up, especially in that third quarter. Caught in a switch against Luol Deng(notes) after Taj Gibson(notes) (who has had success in this series guarding James) took to LeBron, Jamison made his Tobacco Road rival look, well, foolish. Jamison drove and scored, popped a long jumper in his face and generally kept Deng wondering what sort of move Jamison rates below average at. Because it all seemed to be working on Sunday.
Though these moves weren't a function of the Cavaliers offense, it's pretty clear that Jamison finally seems relaxed as he enters his third month with Cleveland.
"It's been a smooth transition," he said on Sunday, before launching into several reasons why it hasn't been a smooth transition in the slightest.
There was a reference to Jamison's first game as a Cav, a fiasco in Charlotte that saw Antawn miss all 12 of his shot attempts. There's the massive (though you wouldn't know it to watch the team) playbook, something Jamison swears he knows about 90 percent of at this point. And there was the constant, if well-intentioned, goading from his new teammates, exhorting him. "From day one," he said on Sunday, "they told me to play my game."
You get the feeling Jamison wanted to stop them in their tracks. How can I play my game if I don't know your plays?
Jamison and the Cavs seem beyond that, now. He's just another cog in an ever-evolving machine led by the best player in the NBA.
And though Jamison might become an afterthought at times in this loaded Cavalier offense, one has to assume that his confidence won't be lacking should Cleveland decide to swing the ball his way. Playbook memorized, floater ready for launch.