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NBA / Jan 12, 2011 / 1:15 pm

Antawn Jamison: “I don’t know how much of this I can take.”

Antawn Jamison (photo. Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

Antawn Jamison (photo. Cleveland Pain-Dealer)

Say it in your best Rudy Tomjanovich voice: Don’t EVER underestimate the heart of an underdog!

When I wrote the Cleveland Cavaliers 2010-11 season preview, I thought maybe, possibly, the defending Central Division champions would muster enough motivation to surprise the critics and snatch a playoff spot. After all, this was a 60-win team that had only lost a couple key players, right? As I put it then:

“New head coach Byron Scott has to prove he can win in the NBA without the luxury of arguably the best point guard in the world (Jason Kidd, Chris Paul) on his roster. Scott’s new PG, Mo Williams, has to prove he has legit All-Star talent and wasn’t just feeding off LeBron‘s teat. Antawn Jamison has to prove he’s more than a paper lion who puts up big numbers in meaningless games. Jamario Moon, Joey Graham, and whoever else is getting minutes at small forward have to prove they won’t be the worst replacements since Flash took over for Eddie King in The Five Heartbeats. And the franchise and city in general have to prove their society won’t crumble without the King.”

The crumbling is in full effect. In last night’s 112-57 loss to the L.A. Lakers, their 21st L in 22 games, the Cavs put on the worst performance of any NBA team this season, their worst performance in a half-season full of bad outings. The once-inspiring underdog story, played to the soundtrack of 2Pac‘s “Me Against the World” before LeBron and the Heat came into town on Dec. 2, now deserves something from B.B. King or J.B. Lenoir‘s library of blues classics.

“It can’t get any worse than this,” Jamison was quoted in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer after the 55-point beatdown. “If it is, y’all going to have to help me. I don’t know how much of this I can take. This, by far, is the bottom.

“Fifty-five points?” Jamison confirmed. “That’s, like, impossible. We’re professional athletes. How do you lose by 55 points? I don’t care who you’re playing against. I mean, if this doesn’t hurt … I don’t understand how we’re able to have conversations in the locker room. There’s nothing to talk about. We have to do some soul searching quick because no matter who we play, right now they feel like they can beat us. If we don’t have a sense of pride and just play for yourself or something … this might be one of the worst teams to go through a season.”

He wasn’t done.

“In 13 years, I can honestly say I never felt that embarrassed to be on a basketball court,” Jamison went on. “We knew what we were up against — the defending champions, playing at home. I don’t know. I guess as soon as we saw the ‘Lakers’ on their jerseys we just … I don’t know. But it was definitely, by far, one of the most embarrassing moments that I’ve been a part of affiliated with the game of basketball. There’s nothing else you can really say.”

The Cavs are now 8-30, and the upcoming February trade deadline has to be looking like a parole board meeting date for some guys on the team. Maybe they’ll let me go.

Jamison is 34 years old and he can still play (16.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg). Somewhere, a playoff contender could use his skills. Daniel Gibson is the kind of shooter good teams want to stick in the corner. J.J. Hickson is young, tall and talented. Anthony Parker is 35 years old and didn’t leave superstar status in the Euroleague for this. Ramon Sessions is a solid backup point guard. Mo Williams can be a good starter. How much longer before they mentally check out?

Scott took the Cavs job before LeBron made his free-agent decision, so he had to prepare himself for the possibility of a lot of losing, but even he couldn’t predict what’s happened to his team.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Scott said of last night’s game, “but to come out and not compete? There’s no excuse for that. I’m embarrassed because of the way we performed. I’m a Cleveland Cavalier right now and the way we performed last night, that’s embarrassing to me.”

Right now, he said. Although bailing on Cleveland obviously isn’t a popular move right now — at least if you’re LeBron and people feel you owe the city something — will Scott want to stick around for the remainder of his contract? Would he bolt if another mildly attractive job, even a college job, became available?

The positive in this is that the Cavs can’t get much worse. They’ve established themselves as the worst team in the League, but surely they’ll win the two games necessary between now and April to avoid the worst win-loss record of all-time (9-73 by the Sixers in ’73). They’ll get a good Lottery pick, maybe even good enough to land a future franchise cornerstone like Baylor big man Perry Jones or Ohio State bruiser Jared Sullinger or Kentucky’s do-it-all star Terrence Jones.

And maybe the L.A. debacle will be a turning point. These are still NBA players in the Cavs’ locker room, and as Jamison said, at some point pride has to play a factor. Last night’s loss could wake the Cavs up and spark a run to some kind of respectability. If it doesn’t, this could be the beginning of history in the making. This could be, even with more than 9 wins, the worst NBA team of all-time.

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  • Hydroo

    The locker room had to be awkward after this game

    Mo williams had a tweet like : “This shit is embarassing. I don’t wanna show my face in Cleveland”

  • Bballeducator

    Cant help but feel a little bad for this organization, its going to be 10 years before they are relevant (see the bulls after Jordan left) they are going to have to rebuild through the draft because Lebron left to large of a shadow, plus its cleveland, no one is trying to go there as a free agent.

  • karizmatic

    The Cavs are really weak. Mo Williams would have to really compete to start on any other team in the league and Antawn Jamison is way past his prime and those are their two best players. There really isn’t much talent on that team. They are a worse version of the Suns. At least the Suns have Nash…Cleveland just has a bunch of role players that can’t even play together.

  • MattO

    actually, I’m pretty sure it was “don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @MattO — I know the quote. I was borrowing the tone, not the exact line.

  • the_don_mega

    @MattO – co-sign that

  • Mike Mihalow

    Jamison shot 30%, 0-3 3PT. Was he calling out the whole team, excluding himself?

  • D Young

    @Mike: Jamison has been carrying them every since his became a starter. Every player has a bad night and should be able to while the rest of the team keeps it going. Mo is the missing voice; if he plays they stand a chance, with Jamison their only dependable player they can not win, particularly if he has a bad night. Let’s not hate on the most consist player!!!

  • Seven Duece

    I applaud Jamison for trying to rally the troops, but that roster is full of flawed players that got by riding LBJ’s coattails. Hell their 2 best players would come off the bench for about 75% of the league. Management needs to pull a Minnesota and grab a young, troubled/disgruntled player that wants to shine and will give the team some type of hope. And JJ Hickson ain’t it.

  • Tim

    I’m from Akron and been a Cavs fan all my life, long before LeQuit showed up. There was no doubt in my mind that the Cavs would come out this season and grab AT LEAST the 8th seed. I can’t believe what I’m seeing from this “team”. Mo has looked great at times but everyone is inconsistant and now we have to deal with the injury bug. Hard to watch. It’s like they come out expecting to lose so they don’t bother to show up.

  • S-SiN

    1-21 vs. 21-1 danny gilbert can give u a bomba clutt reading!

    and Tim, get over it or grow up.. Le Bron isn’t stupid, u can say something when you have a lunch with Buffer, the League SHOULD have fewer teams. sorry, go fish or something

  • control

    Jamison doesn’t know how long he can take this? He should have thought of that before he went out and had one of the worst post seasons you could have last playoffs. The guy straight out disappeared last playoffs, and every time he needed to come up with SOMETHING, he gave NOTHING. If he would have played 10% as good as he could, even in his reduced state, then maybe LBDouche wouldn’t have taken his talents to south beach…

  • EN FUEGO

    Sounds like Jamison could use one of Arenas’ guns right about now.

  • UncheckedAggression

    control-No freakin kidding. Jamison and Mo both played pretty much the worst ball of their career when they were needed most. I honestly don’t know how frustrating that would be from Lebron’s perspective. All the sudden Mo can’t even hit wide open jumpers and Jamison’s offense disappeared, all while getting scored on repeatedly in the post.

    It really sucks for the current Cavs roster, but I don’t feel that sorry for them. They fucked Lebron over at the worst time. Lebron left and now they’re exposed to what they truly are.

    As for Gilbert and most Cavs fans? They can go fuck themselves. They deserve this shit.

  • bakedbeing

    Did these guys who complain about Lebron giving up with 1 minute to go in the playoffs, after 7 years of effort, even watch the series? Did they not see that the rest of the team had given up before the start of the game, and he was trying to drag their tired, foetal-position-assuming asses through 4 quarters before he was beaten by how impossible it is to win against a driven team when the only heart on your team outside of yourself is two broken down old centres?

  • Phantom5

    i feel really bad for the guy. Jamison, I mean. Everywhere he goes he seems to get a taste of what it is to be a winner, just to have it shun away from him by factors he can’t control. I hope he gets out of there soon and get to a contender who will be able to utilize his undeniable skill and give Jamison one more shot and hopefully, before his career his over, he will get the love for the game back.

  • Vlad

    very sad for the whole organisation.im not a cavs fan but its a sad story….

  • Chris

    I knew they werent shit without Lebron

  • http://www.ngoogs.com n.googs

    To all my fellow Clevelanders and Cleveland fans – I have recorded the first Cleveland-themed remix to Wiz Khalifa’s Black & Yellow, entitled Brown & Orange!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cezJfu7Nb3g

  • http://www.ngoogs.com n.googs

    To all my fellow Clevelanders and Cleveland fans (mostly browns fans but i figure that if you’re a Cavs fan, you’re a Browns fan lol) – I have recorded the first Cleveland-themed remix to Wiz Khalifa’s Black & Yellow, entitled Brown & Orange!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cezJfu7Nb3g

  • http://www.ngoogs.com n.googs

    damnit sorry for the repost that’s my bad