Antawn Jamison is confused about his role with the Los Angeles Lakers, and it's not hard to understand why.
His month of December was a tale of two halves. Over the first seven games, he averaged 27 minutes, nine points and five rebounds. Over the next seven games, he averaged three minutes, zero points and just over half a rebound. He hasn't seen the court since December 16 in Philly, registering the dreaded "DNP–CD" in five consecutive contests.
Of the benchings, Jamison told Los Angeles Daily News writer Mark Medina:
It doesn't make sense at all. They're pretty much telling me my services are no longer needed.
Those are incendiary words—especially from a veteran with a hagiographic rap sheet—which, of course, led to speculation that Jamison was pushing his way out of Tinseltown.
Those suspicions were largely put to rest on Sunday when Jamison said:
There's not going to be no rocking the boat here with myself or demanding a trade. I'm here for the long haul and I'm here to help this team win a championship.
Which is all well and good but begs a significant question:
How, exactly, can Antawn Jamison help this team win a championship?
I mean, his skills have clearly deteriorated. He has yet to reach corpse territory, but he's a shell of the man who has averaged 17 points and eight rebounds over his 14-year career. And a team that employs Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant is hardly in need of the nebulous "veteran leadership."
So how, exactly, can Antawn Jamison help this team win a championship?
My answer: The same way that Mike Miller helped the Heat win a championship. The same way that James Posey helped Boston win a championship. The same way that everybody on the Spurs not named Parker, Ginobili or Duncan ever helped San Antonio win a championship.
By coming up big when he needs to.
Jamison, much like his team on the whole, is no longer built for the rigors of an 82-game schedule. It's too long of a grind and too taxing of a journey. But the playoffs are a different monster. The playoffs are a half-court endeavor. The playoffs are a time where players like Jamison, even at an advanced age, can make a giant difference.
The Lakers roster is gravid with guys like Darius Morris and Jodie Meeks; players who are long on bounciness but short on savvy. In the regular season, that's a valuable commodity. But in the playoffs, the opposite type of player becomes paramount; the player who might play under the rim but is attuned to making big plays in big games.
You don't have to look too far in the past to find a glowing example. In the clinching game of last year's NBA Finals, disregarded vet Mike Miller came off the bench to hit seven three-pointers. The Heat might have won anyway, but Miller ensured that it wasn't even a contest. Granted, he was injured off and on, but he did so after just 39 regular-season appearances.
The Lakers are going to need that sort of production come April, May or June. They're going to need a guy who can come off the bench and make open shots in the half court.
In short, they're gonna need a guy exactly like Antawn Jamison.