For the past 13 days, Antawn Jamison suddenly jumped from becoming one of the Lakers’ focal reserves to one staying seated on the bench.
Jamison missed the past five games because of the dreaded “DNP-Coach’s Decision.” Even in the Lakers’ 104-87 victory Friday over the Portland Trail Blazers, Jamison stayed there while seldom-used bench players Robert Sacre, Earl Clark and Devin Ebanks played garbage time.
“It doesn’t make sense at all,” Jamison said in a brief interview with this newspaper. “They’re pretty much telling me my services are no longer needed.”
Jamison signed with the Lakers this offseason to a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum ($1.4 million). Shortly after the Lakers fired Mike Brown, Jamison’s role expanded under coach Mike D’Antoni. He posted a season-high 33 points against Denver on Nov. 30 and then averaged 12.3 points over the next four games.
D’Antoni rationalized Jamison’s “DNP” against Portland more out of respect for the 15-year NBA veteran.
“I want him to feel comfortable when he goes in and not play garbage time,” D’Anton said. “He’s too good of a pro and has been around too long.”
But in other games, D’Antoni has sat Jamison for other reasons. D’Antoni loves Metta World Peace as a backup to Pau Gasol as power forward because of his consistency both on offense and defense. Meanwhile, he’s preferred using Jordan Hill at center to relieve Gasol and Dwight Howard because of his energy and hustle on defense.
Even though Jamison’s scoring helps stretch the floor, he’s struggled on defense. D’Antoni said Jamison “probably” will see more minutes since Gasol has nursed plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Yet, he then suggested Hill instead would play more to relieve Gasol.
“We don’t want to lose Antawn because he does what he does,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll see. Antawn’s ready to roll if we need him.”
Yet, Jamison suggested D’Antoni hasn’t explained that thought process directly.
“Nothing has been told to me or anything like that,” said Jamison, who’s averaged 7.2 points in 25 games this season, including five as a starter. “We’ll keep it in house. But it’s frustrating. You know you can help the team out and want to help the team out. But it’s not going that way. I’ll continue to work hard and do what’s asked of me to do.”
D’Antoni hardly sounded surprised Jamison might be frustrated.
“I’m sure he wants to play as any player wants to play,” D’Antoni said. “He’s the greatest professional. He knows his chance will come around.”
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