Player Capsules #4-6: Antawn Jamison, Glen Davis, Carl Landry

As one of our mainstay features, Aaron is writing posts highlighting every single player in the NBA. Role players, superstars, key cogs, or players who are barely as useful as ballboys -- none are exempt from the prying eyes of our readers. Check the index for a lowdown on order, intent, and all that jazz. Today's batch includes Antawn Jamison, Glen Davis, and Carl Landry.

 • • •

[004]   Jamison, Antawn

For more on Antawn Jamison, see Aaron's player preview at Fear the Sword.

I don't really know what to say about Antawn. He's a class act. Really really nice dude. Watching interviews with him is usually heartwarming and he seems like a genuinely awesome, humble man. When the Cavs got him, I wasn't obscenely excited, because I always thought he was a tad overrated, but I was really glad I'd get to root for a class act like Antawn on my favorite team. A character guy like that? On that stacked Cavs team? Awesome. I thought. Then I had to spend a few games watching him. And let me just say: never again will I assume watchability based on personality. EVER. Seriously... I don't even know where to start. When he was on the Wizards, I didn't pay all that much attention to him. It was mostly all Gil, or Caron, or whoever the Wizards were playing. And rooting against them. Antawn always rather faded into the background for me.

But when he's playing for your own team you end up watching him pretty closely. And when you do that, you discover a lot about Antawn. And post-discovery? Christ, do I hate him. Not a single more frustrating player in the league, though Anthony Parker's chuck-friendly game comes close sometimes. Tawn's game is an amalgam of  everything I dislike about modern NBA bigs -- big men thinking they have infinitely more range than they do (attention Antawn: you aren't a three point gunner no matter how many times Austin Carr sings his praises for your three-ball shot, get the hell inside), big men refusing to get position and lock down rebounds (I'm not exaggerating when I say that Antawn Jamison is the worst player at completing a simple box out in the entire league), and big men who cannot defend anyone (his defensive incompetence was bad before Cleveland, but the 2011 version of Antawn Jamison was a bold new talent in allowing every single opposing big man to score billions of points every fucking night). You'd know if you watched more than 50 of the 2011 Cavaliers' games. Which I did. Torturously. Jamison was without question the least enjoyable player to watch, night-in and night-out.

Do you remember that whole Yi Jianlin vs the world his team's chair debacle? The chair's defensive acumen is far beyond Jamison's. He is an actively horrible defensive player whose defense quite frankly GIVES the opposing team buckets. The man can't play within any defensive system with any success. There's a reason he's never been past the second round, you know. And this all isn't to say that he doesn't have some really nice pieces to his game -- the main one worth talking about is his ridiculous command of banking angles and his ability to get acrobatic, sideways roll shots through the hoop better than mostin the league. Because he does have that, and it's pretty cool to watch him make those crazy shots a few times a game. Sometimes. But there are so many goddamn flaws, you know? His game is the epitome of an empty lottery team stat-padder, which is a shame, because as dude he's a stand-up guy and it'd be pretty cool if his game matched the quality of his character. I'd feel a lot more sorry for him if I hadn't watched the 2011 Cavs. Now I just feel absolutely horrible for anyone who has had to consistently watch this guy over the course of his career. Yeesh.

• • •

[005]   Davis, Glen

Glen Davis isn't a great player. But he's boisterous, high energy, and entertaining -- all the requisite pieces to be a fan favorite and an overrated fan-loved tertiary piece for a contender. He's a minus defender on his fundamentals, but he makes up for it by being dependably in the right place and taking a lot of charges. His offensive game has seen a lot of turbulence in the years since he entered the league -- Davis has transformed from an inside player to a big man whose J is essentially his only weapon. To wit, examine a small table I cooked up. %SHT indicates the percentage of his shots that came from that range, and FG% is how well he shot from the range on the shots he took.

========= AT RIM ======= JUMPER ====
....... %SHT   FG% ... %SHT   FG% ..
2008    0.61  0.54     0.39  0.33 ..
2009    0.33  0.59     0.67  0.40 ..
2010    0.48  0.52     0.52  0.37 ..
2011    0.30  0.63     0.70  0.39 ..
====================================

See the pattern? Essentially, Davis spent his rookie year trying to be an at-the-rim player. He only took 37 jump shots in his entire rookie season. The next year, though, he began to lean heavily on his improving jumper and for the most part quit forcing things in the post. That pattern has held relatively constant going forward, which is where the crux of his value comes into play. Davis is an extremely poor rebounder on both ends of the court (though he's a better offensive rebounder than a defensive rebounder), he's not a great man defender, and he isn't a reliable back to the basket presence. But he hustles, he can make a midrange shot when Rondo gets him open, and he sets decent screens. He knows the Celtics playbook and most likely has about 2-3x more value for them than he does for any other team in the league. So I'd normally think he'd be a lock to get resigned by the Celts once the lockout ends. Not positive that happens, though -- Davis has been sort of a jackass to the Celtics organization since the playoffs ended, and has confusingly stated that he wants to play starter's minutes (which... he's already playing for the Celtics, actually) and that he wants to get back to "Glen being Glen" instead of giving up his game for Boston's stars. So he may be heading out when the lockout ends. Personally, I don't think that would be such a bad thing for Celtics' fans -- I get the sense most of them think more of Davis than they should, and have visions of him as their big of the future. News flash: no. And that's all I have to say about that.

Off the court? I'm not one to talk about NBA players being dumb. Frankly, I think most athletes are given a horribly raw deal by a predominantly white media collective that loves to talk down to their intelligence and assume they're little more than mental midgets. Most NBA players are reasonably intelligent, and while we rarely consider it, the smarts it takes to master the mechanics of a basketball-playing body to become a good defender or a good shooter would be a significant mental asset if applied to any other field. What's more, modern NBA players tend to be businessmen, and while they hire people to help them out at the end of the day NBA players are making big decisions with large sums of money. Tim Duncan wrote a published thesis on the psychology of interpersonal reactions to excessive egoism. Steve Nash is a marketing genius who makes more money in a year on marketing than most people will ever make in their lives. Stephon Marbury may be a headcase, but even he built a more successful business operation than 95% of the world is capable of building. Intelligence isn't just how book smart you are, and NBA players have a lot of business intelligence, marketing acumen, and -- yes, Mr. Simmons -- plenty of intellectual capital to spare. Just because they have muscles doesn't mean they don't have brains.

Having said all that, Glen Davis strikes me as being, well, sort of dumb. His twitter is one of the most incomprehensible streams of idiotic babble this side of Dejuan Blair (a player I love, but who strikes me as a bit lacking in smarts). He's a funny guy, sort of, if you like humor like that -- me, personally, I always feel like I'm laughing more at him than with him, which makes me feel a little sad because I'm positive that's not his intent. Still. His relatively low mental faculties do lead to some funny quotes. Like the aforementioned "Glen being Glen" quote, in which he refers to himself in the third person not once, not twice, but five times in the span of three sentences:

“I just want to make sure I’m Glen Davis wherever I’m at. I think I can be Glen Davis wherever. It just depends on the system, the people around the system, who’s going to let Glen Davis be Glen Davis, not make Glen Davis something they think he should be.’’

That much third person is quite an accomplishment, really. If you're honest.

• • •

 

[006] Landry, Carl

Man. This dude fell off a cliff. He's been rather poor the last year and a half. Though, it wasn't always this way. In fact, at the time Kevin Martin got traded for Landry, I actually thought Landry was the best player in the deal. I was then proven so incredibly wrong it's hard to fathom how I ever thought that -- while Kevin Martin was an all-star quality player last year, Landry was barely replacement level. If even that. Regardless. We know how that turned out. Back in Houston, Landry was a 6MotY type burst scorer off the bench. He had an eldritch talent for drawing free throws, a decent post up game if he can catch his defender off balance, and a knack for snagging the contested offensive rebound to try a putback. He had a good sense of space on defense and although his size (extremely short for PF or C, his natural position) puts him at a disadvantage in a lot of cases he's decent at getting past his size. He uses his size to impose a quickness advantage versus the usual big men he faces -- in doing so, he becomes a tough individual defender, as his man can't regularly drive past him or lose control of the ball for fear that he'll hawk it.

The negatives? Well, first off, all that described his Houston game -- after he went to Sacramento, he became a tentative and nervous player who played passive on offense and rarely used the efficient burst scoring that made him an effective sixth man in Adelman's schemes. If he's not playing with a decent point guard who has some chemistry with him and can set him up with easy baskets, he tends to play as though he's having a bad night and eschews shots in order to keep out of the core offense. He's also a terrible help defender -- while he covers for his own size-challenged defense by funneling his man to the help (hence why he was so effective playing alongside Emeka Okafor, a great help defender) he gets lost on rotations and has trouble following guards. His biggest flaw, though, isn't any of those things -- it's his rebounding. He is quite possibly the least interested rebounder in the league, on the defensive end. While he's on the court, expect his man to get plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities -- he doesn't have the size to box out nor the will to contest, most of the time.

So, overall? You get a poor rebounding, undersized big man who doesn't have the ability to create his own offense or stay aggressive unless he's being set up by a guard he has a lot of chemistry with. Not a particularly good recipe for success. When he's on? Very efficient. Great sixth man. But not really a great player. Off the court, though, one has to give their due -- Landry is tough as nails. In mid 2009 he got shot in one of the stranger attacks I've heard an NBA player have to go through -- his car got slammed into on a city street, and when he got out to survey the damage and trade insurance information, the occupants of the offending car got out, shot him, and sped away. They only got his calf, but Landry was in a relatively remote location and ended up walking several miles to find help. With a bullet in his leg, and a dislocated finger from the accident.  Pretty amazing, really. He also came back to the court less than three weeks after being shot, which is absurd as hell. Knock his game for how badly it has fallen off since his Houston days, but give the man his due -- dude is tough as hell.

• • •

To conclude, one last Big Baby quote. This time on the subject of why Big Baby hates Kobe Bryant.

“He just pisses me off on the court. You stress him out and he might speak some Spanish to you and you’re like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I know you’re from Italy or somewhere, but his charisma and just the way he’s so poised, it just gets under my skin.”

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