Lakers forward Antawn Jamison should provide plenty of energy off the bench. (Mark Duncan / Associated…)
This is the fourth post in a series focusing on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2012-13 season.
1. Be ready for a heavy workload. Antawn Jamison made it clear at his introductory news conference this summer that he's fine with a reserve role if it means winning an NBA championship. He could, however, make his Lakers debut as a starter because Dwight Howard might not play in the Oct. 30 opener against Dallas because of his surgically repaired back. It's not clear if Lakers Coach Mike Brown would choose Jamison or Jordan Hill to start, while Pau Gasol would slide to center. But in either case, Jamison's going to have a large responsibility.
Jamison, a 16-year veteran, has a strong track record of avoiding injury. He said he's been training nonstop and often did yoga. To weather Howard's absence, Jamison will need to be in top shape to absorb heavy minutes.
2. Provide lots of scoring. Even with a talented starting lineup, the Lakers' bench must improve on its league-worst 20.5 points per game from last season. The reserves' efficiency could significantly determine whether the starters (most notably, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant) receive enough rest. Considering Jamison has averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in his career, it's safe to assume he's capable of producing similar numbers with the Lakers.
If Jamison provides scoring, it's likely to have trickle-down effects. His teammates will receive plenty of open looks. It will be easier to generate offense in transition. It will take the pressure off of tentative players, such as Steve Blake and Devin Ebanks. The Lakers lacked this presence last season because of the Lamar Odom trade. Because of that, the Lakers reserves were left without an identity and a definitive go-to man. Jamison needs to embrace that responsibility.
3. Have a leadership role. He is a new guy on the Lakers, but Jamison's built a solid reputation beyond his consistent scoring and longevity. Various accounts say he's a positive locker room presence. The Lakers will have plenty of leadership from Bryant, Nash and Gasol. But it will be valuable for the reserves to have their own leader. Jamison will play mostly with the reserves and they'll need a go-to option.
The rest of the reserves have a team-first mindset, including Blake, Ebanks, Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks. But last season, the bench lacked an identity. Jamison would be a good model to follow because of his work ethic and positive attitude.
4. Minimize defensive mistakes. General Manager Mitch Kupchak gushed that Jamison's signing had seemed as improbable as securing Nash. Just as he couldn't imagine landing Nash from a division rival in the Phoenix Suns, Kupchak couldn't envision someone of Jamison's caliber taking the veteran's minimum. Still, Kupchak couldn't resist at the introductory news conference poking fun at Jamison's defense.
Jamison took the dig in stride and vowed to work on his defense. His defensive weaknesses reflect more ability than effort. So simply trying hard may shave off a few extra baskets but it won't fundamentally improve his defense. Jamison's best served by just playing smarter. Jamison should communicate with his teammates so the unit's organized. His scoring could reduce opponents' chances in transition. Playing physical could better ensure he's at least capable of holding his own in the post.
5. Be flexible with his role. The Lakers mainly like Jamison for his scoring. But his ability to play both forward spots add to his value. Injuries and matchup concerns could make it necessary for Jamison to play multiple positions in an array of lineup combinations. His team-first mentality and versatility make him suited for this role.