Justice Is Served

February 20, 2010 2:25 PM

'Missing piece' didn't look good in Cavs debut


So much for the "missing piece," huh ?

OK, this missing piece will get better; it will fit in, because nothing in his NBA resume suggests that forward Antawn Jamison plays as badly as he did Friday night in Charlotte.

Jamison's debut in wine and gold was either "Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." His play wasn't just frightening; it was ... well, I don't know what word you would utter in describing a night when a player -- a player of Jamison's immense talent -- does a better job of laying bricks than a mason.

A bad night for Jamison might be in the order 4-of-14 from the floor. To go 0-for-12 with two points, as he did against the Bobcats, is to leave everybody in Cleveland ready to scream: Bring Zydrunas Ilgauskas back!

It would be typical of sports fans in the city. 

They are impatience for success -- not the getting-into-the-playoff kind of success either. They've had teams get there over the decades. They want a championship; they want a team that they can hold a tickertape parade for on Euclid Avenue.

The Cavs, of course, are their best hope in that regard. For they do have the right pieces in place: a megastar in LeBron James, an owner who's unafraid to spend and a general manager who can discern the difference between a Rolls and a jelly roll.

For more than 40 years, Clevelanders have longed for a franchise like this. They wanted an organization that can stop driving them around a cul-de-sac and get them on the highway to heaven.

The Cavaliers are that team. They are everything the Browns and the Indians aren't, which is a team that can entertain thoughts of winning a title. The Cavs don't function in the world of delusion.

That explains the decision to go all-in -- to cash in a big chip for an even bigger chip. Nobody around here wanted to see "Z" leave, and LeBron James said as much, too.

No matter how sorrowful parting ways might be, parting is sometimes the only course when a better prize than Z waiting.

Antawn Jamison was that prize. He might not have been the grand prize -- some people argue that would have been Suns center/forward Amare Stoudemire -- but he's not the booby prize. Jamison will give the Cavs what the 7-foot-2 Z never could: athleticism, length on the perimeter and physicality against more mobile players.

But a team can't bring in a Jamison and expect to shoehorn him easily into the mix. He has to get to know his teammates, particularly LeBron; they have to get to know him -- his likes and his dislikes; his strengths and his weaknesses, which only reveal themselves over time.

That time didn't come in a lopsided 110-93 loss to the 'Cats. Yes, it was a sorry display - not simply from Jamison. In the grind of an 82-game season, a championship-caliber team will have a few nights like this one, and so will a player - stars included.    

This was Jamison's sorry night, perhaps the worst night of his NBA career; it just happened to be his first night, too. But Jamison didn't forget how to ball in his trek from D.C. to Cleveland the other day. He switched jerseys and team colors; he didn't, however, leave his hoops skills on a hanger in the Wizards locker room.

His performance wasn't anything to make the Nike puppets salsa dance, but soon enough Jamison should prove he deserves a puppet of his own - one that'll fill the spot Z vacated in those LeBron commercials.

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