I've probably flip-flopped more times on the value of Antawn Jamison's "leadership" than any other issue surrounding this team. Last year, I thought it was overrated, since he was throwing jabs at the young guys that I thought were undeserved. Now that I've been around the team for a while, I can see how they all value it so much.
At this very moment, I'm very happy about Jamison's leadership. Why? At practice today, I asked him what he thinks about Gilbert Arenas' on-court mentality (i.e. does he need to be more aggressive, etc.). Antawn's response? He needs to just play and stop listening to what everyone else wants him to be.
"That's the thing I tell him," Jamison said after practice today. "Don't listen to me."
"'But coach [said this]," Jamison continued, imitating Arenas, before saying in his own voice, "Don't listen. You play your game. You do what has gotten you to this point. Now, if you can't do that, you got to find a way to get close to it."
"I said to him, 'Man, don't listen to nobody. Just do what you do. Don't try to do what someone else is telling you to do."
Jamison said he cannot tell Arenas whether to be aggressive or to set people up. He said that would be like someone telling him to "cross people up like Allen Iverson." "That's going to be a turnover, we going the other way," Jamison said. "I don't do that. Two or three dribbles, and it's going up."
He added that there are too many voices in Arenas' head, saying that Arenas just needs to be patient and work his way back. He added that we shouldn't take for granted how difficult it is for Arenas to get back to where he once was after being out for most of the past two years.
"I just think – I won’t say he’s listening, but so much has been said as far as ‘We need him to be aggressive’ or ‘We need him to set people up.’ Gil knew when to be aggressive. He knew when to set people up. But like I said, the guy hasn’t played in however many so games, so he’s just going to have to get back into the thick of things. He’s going to have to understand, ‘How can I do this 15-20 games into the season?’ ‘How can I do this for four-in-five nights or four-in-six nights?’ That’s the tough thing. I’m still trying to do it, and I’ve been healthy the last two or three seasons."
Jamison's entire response took over two minutes, and I've rarely seen him more worked up than he was then. That's not to say he was angry, but clearly, he had a message he wanted to get across and he wanted it to be emphatic.
For his part, Flip Saunders said point blank that Arenas has no confidence right now and that he needs to be more aggressive and stop passing up open shots. He, of course, said it in a much more measured way than Jamison did.
As for Arenas? He wasn't there when I got there. A Wizards PR director told me Arenas was getting his passport renewed in preparation for tomorrow's trip to Toronto. I'm not sure whether he left early before the media got there or didn't practice altogether.