Lak­ers scout Jami­son on: LeBron, UNC, 1-and-done

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY BREN­DAN MARKS [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

It’s been four years since Antawn Jami­son suited up for a pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball team, but his fin­ger is still very much on the pulse of the bas­ket­ball world.

Jami­son, the 1998 Na­tional Player of the Year at North Carolina, re­tired from the NBA in 2014 af­ter a 17-year NBA ca­reer, but joined the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers as a scout last Oc­to­ber. As such, he’s been very at­tuned to the fran­chise’s off­sea­son moves — none more sig­nif­i­cant than sign­ing LeBron James to a four- year con­tract in free agency.

Jami­son is from Char­lotte and grad­u­ated from Prov­i­dence High. He was back in town Thurs­day for the 16th an­nual HoopTee celebrity golf tournament at The Bal­lan­tyne re­sort, hosted by Hor­nets pres­i­dent Fred Whit­field. He spoke about James’ im­pact on the Lak­ers, the Hor­nets’ sign­ing of Tony Parker, pre­dic­tions for the cur­rent UNC bas­ket­ball team, and the po­ten­tial elim­i­na­tion of the one-and-done rule in col­lege bas­ket­ball.

The in­ter­view, edited for gram­mar and brevity, is be­low:

Q: The Lak­ers have been the talk of the NBA this off­sea­son,

and as a scout for the team, you have an in­side per­spec­tive as to what’s go­ing on. What have been some of your take­aways from ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pened this

sum­mer?

A: It’s mak­ing my job a lot eas­ier, I can tell you that much (laughs). Def­i­nitely an ex­cit­ing time. Af­ter I re­tired, I started do­ing some work for the Lak­ers, and I’ve kind of seen them try to fig­ure some things out. A cou­ple of coach­ing changes and in the front of­fice. Magic Johnson is

magic. He’s made a prom­ise to the Buss fam­ily and also to Laker Na­tion that he’s go­ing to fig­ure things out, and what bet­ter way than for prob­a­bly the best player of this gen­er­a­tion to join your or­ga­ni­za­tion?

So there’s a lot of ex­cite­ment around the Lak­ers’ fans and the NBA about LeBron join­ing the Lak­ers, and for my­self, it just gives you that extra boost of en­ergy to make sure you’re hold­ing up your end of the bar­gain. Def­i­nitely some fun times.

Q: Be­ing at sum­mer league, you had a chance to watch some of these young play­ers live. Who among them impresses you, and how do you see them fit­ting with LeBron?

A: The Wag­ner kid from Michi­gan (first-round pick Moritz Wag­ner) is a big kid. Of­fen­sively, he can spread the floor. If you’re big in the NBA to­day, you ei­ther have to shoot the ball, be able to pass the ball, or you’ve got to be an un­be­liev­able ath­lete — run­ning up and down the court, set­ting screens, dunk­ing — and he has a com­bi­na­tion of do­ing all that, so def­i­nitely ex­cited about him.

We’ve got a young kid from Kansas (sec­on­dround pick Svi Mykhail­iuk) who is show­ing peo­ple that not only is he an ath­letic player, but he can def­i­nitely shoot the ball. Just his mind­set has been un­be­liev­able.

A lot of these young guys, you know, the kid Collin Sex­ton out of Cleve­land, he’s show­ing a lot of peo­ple that he has a cer­tain type of tough­ness that’s go­ing to last for a cou­ple of years in the league. I’m def­i­nitely ex­cited the way the NBA game is at now. A lot of peo­ple are dis­ap­pointed with the way Golden State keeps stack­ing their team, but hey, man, if you wanna win, you’ve got to find a way to com­pete. I think you’re start­ing to see a lot of teams do that. It’s sur­pris­ing you’re start­ing to see a lot of su­per­stars, like Kawhi Leonard leav­ing, or DeMar DeRozan get­ting traded, but that’s what the NBA is all about. It’s some­thing to talk about. It’s a lot of ex­cite­ment.

My friend Mitch (Kupchak, Char­lotte gen­eral man­ager) is here with the Hor­nets, so I got an op­por­tu­nity to talk to him, and I like the vi­sion he has for the Hor­nets, as well. It’s good for this re­gion to get some ex­cite­ment and some young play­ers here.

Q: What does a vet­eran guy like point guard Tony Parker bring to this Hor­nets locker room?

A: A guy who’s go­ing to com­pete. He’s a guy who has been there, done that. He comes from a cul­ture (in San An­to­nio) that is ac­cus­tomed to not just winning, but try­ing to win a cham­pi­onship year in and year out. You have a sit­u­a­tion where you have a lot of young play­ers, and it’ll be good to have a vet­eran guy like that who has seen it all.

He knows the coach (James Bor­rego) par­tic­u­larly well, so the coach is go­ing to lean on him as much as pos­si­ble. But the most im­por­tant thing is that he’s a great ex­am­ple on and off the court, and he’s re­ally go­ing to teach these guys the vet­eran way, the cham­pi­onship way, and the way to come in and com­pete.

Q: How of­ten are you back in Chapel Hill and how much are you able to keep up with cur­rent UNC teams?

A: I do the scout­ing, so I was up in Chapel Hill prob­a­bly three times a month.

(Joel Berry) was do­ing (well) un­til he got hurt (an­kle), but they loved the way he com­peted and what he was do­ing. I kind of knew he would sign to the G League, so he’s ex­cited. And Theo (Pin­son, with Brook­lyn Nets) did a great job. We tried to get him with the Lak­ers, as well. Magic (Johnson) re­ally liked him. So I got the op­por­tu­nity, and now es­pe­cially dur­ing the sum­mer time, I’m try­ing to find a rea­son to get back there. Play some golf (laughs). I’m down there ev­ery op­por­tu­nity I get. That’s home. That’s my sec­ond home, no mat­ter where I go. Be­tween Char­lotte and Chapel Hill, I can’t be gone too long.

Q: So what pre­dic­tions do you have for this sea­son’s Tar Heels?

A: It’s go­ing to de­pend on our bigs. If our bigs can step up and com­pete. ... And then the (Nas­sir) Lit­tle kid? Phew. He’s a spe­cial tal­ent. But we need the rest of our bigs from last year, Gar­ri­son (Brooks) and all those guys, to im­prove. Be­cause I’ve seen the other point guard (Coby White) who’s com­ing in, I’ve seen Lit­tle play. We’re not go­ing to miss a beat. We’re go­ing to have those guys com­pet­ing.

And then we’ve got a cou­ple of veter­ans (Luke Maye, Kenny Wil­liams, Cam Johnson) com­ing back who have been there be­fore. We just need those bigs to con­trol the paint on both ends of the floor.

Q: Do you think this UNC team is na­tional cham­pi­onship-cal­iber?

A: Yeah, man. I’m telling you. You’re start­ing to see the teams where guys that play to­gether (can make it work). ... These one-and-done play­ers have money on the line. They’re wor­ried about get­ting drafted and all that other stuff.

Q: So what are your thoughts on one-and­done play­ers then? There’s a chance that could go away in the next sev­eral years.

A: It would help the NCAA (col­lege bas­ket­ball), but it would hurt the NBA. Be­cause you’re go­ing to have a lot of guys that would be com­ing in super young.

I was talk­ing to some of the other scouts who have done this be­fore, and I’m like, “It’s hard to go to these col­leges where guys have only been in school for one year.” Now you’re go­ing to go to high school and try to find out? The only way it can be suc­cess­ful is if the G-League is a more formed sys­tem like base­ball. It has to be, be­cause it’s dif­fi­cult to have a guy with only one year of col­lege, but he has this ath­letic abil­ity and the ca­pa­bil­ity of be­ing suc­cess­ful. But now you’re go­ing to these high school kids, and you’re go­ing to put so much money and so much time into them? You have no idea if they’re go­ing to pan out.

This is my thing: If you re­ally have the po­ten­tial and the tal­ent, it makes sense. But this year, there were so many guys that you knew should have gone back (to school), that you knew weren’t go­ing to get drafted and stayed in the draft any­way. There should be a formed de­vel­op­men­tal sys­tem where you’re still in the United States, and they say the money’s go­ing to be a lit­tle bit bet­ter.

It’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing, but it’s go­ing to be great for col­lege. Ei­ther you’re in or you’re out.

Antawn Jami­son

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