One look around the Cavaliers practice facility at Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, Ohio and the casual fan would have a tough time putting names to a lot of faces. Gone are LeBron James, Delonte West and Zydrunas Ilgauskas; in attendance are players such as Joey Graham, Christian Eyenga and Ryan Hollins. But while many of these new players are still getting acclimated to the Cleveland area, Antawn Jamison is home.
“This is home for me,” said Jamison earlier this week. ”It’s starting to feel like home. I have my patterns down and I know exactly what’s going on. Last year was a whirlwind, trying to get everything down and get used to everybody. I’ve been here for a couple of weeks now and it feels like it’s supposed to feel.”
Coming over in the trade that sent Zydrunas Ilgauskas and the team’s 2010 first-round draft choice to the Washington Wizards, Jamison admitted that things happened a lot quicker than he had anticipated. Between the bevy of injuries to various players like Shaquille O’Neal and Mo Williams, Jamison – one of the league’s most respected players on and off of the court – said that his main goal was to help this Cavaliers team win while not rocking the boat in terms of chemistry.
But since the departure of LeBron James, there has been a considerable amount of piling on the city of Cleveland. Likely dating back to the opening playoff series with the Chicago Bulls and Joakim Noah’s infamous description of Cleveland’s nightlife (“It’s bad, man. Really bad.) or Braylon Edwards claims of “no social networking,” major media outlets have added some salt into the wounds at any possible moment. Whether the low blows are via a Jordan-Ehlo montage or ESPN’s Stuart Scott referring to Cleveland fans as “those poor people,” Jamison has seemingly taken the flip side of that coin, defending his new home town when given the opportunity.
“I don’t have a problem with Cleveland at all,” said Jamison. ”I know a lot of people talk a certain way about Cleveland but it’s really starting to grow on me. It’s going to be fun. I’m definitely excited about getting things going, to start competing and playing basketball.”
Though his family will be staying in North Carolina and he continues to have contact with his former teammates in Washington DC (Jamison says that we can expect the “Gilbert Arenas of old” to be back this season), the veteran forward knows that his role in Cleveland has multiple folds. With many of the former leaders now playing elsewhere, Jamison will have to take the younger players under his wing from a leadership standpoint as well as a coaching standpoint. With a new offensive scheme in town, one that Jamsion says he knows like the back of his hand, he will be counted on to be more vocal with the team and an all-around bigger face for the franchise.
A part of the latter responsibility, as Jamison is well aware, is endearing himself to the city of Cleveland and the fans who the team hopes will continue to support them night in and night out despite the fact that a 60-win season appears to be a pipe dream.
Though what the 2010-11 season has to offer may not be exactly what Jamison envisioned when he was traded to the Cavaliers last February, the veteran power forward states that he will not only be taking on a vocal leadership role this season, but is still happy to be here even despite the current roster being considerably further from a championship than it was a season prior.
“I don’t think twice about it,” said Jamison. “I’m here, I’m here for a reason, and we’re going to make the best of it. We have a great group of guys, they still joke around and have a good time. This is where I’m supposed to be.”
(Scott Shaw / The Plain Dealer)