If Ilgauskas does undergo surgery, it will sideline him for the season. Walton, who has never spoken to Ilgauskas, offers two pieces of advice: Practice infinite patience and develop a life outside basketball. Walton initially struggled with both, and even though he won championships with the Trail Blazers and the Celtics and made it to the Hall of Fame, the emotional pain lingers 14 years after his final game. "My career was one of disappointment, frustration and embarrassment that I couldn't play more," he says. "I'm left with that empty feeling that I let my team down."
Ilgauskas can relate. He knows people grow weary of his setbacks, and his teammates are frustrated because they aren't sure they can count on him. "I have played basketball since I was seven years old," Ilgauskas says. "When my career is over, I want to look back and say I had a great one, not, 'It wasn't meant to be.' "
Warriors' Coaching Change
Did Jamison Get a Bad Rap?
Warriors forward Antawn Jamison learned as a rookie last season that basketball can be a cold business. After Golden State acquired veteran Chris Mills as part of the Latrell Sprewell trade, Jamison, who envisioned getting heavy minutes on a rebuilding team, instead sat as Mills gobbled up the prime time under coach P.J. Carlesimo. It was a major blow to Jamison, who struggled while the player he was traded for on draft day, Vince Carter, excelled.
"P.J. had to win basketball games," Jamison says. "He's thinking, Should I put in a rookie who doesn't know our defenses, or should I put in a guy I know won't make a mistake? I understood that, but I still didn't like it too much."
Hence, lesson two: When Carlesimo was fired three weeks ago, Jamison was fingered as a guy who not only helped dig P.J.'s grave but also danced on it. He was called a prima donna in one newspaper and a Judas in another, characterizations that both Jamison and the Warriors' front office insist are unfair. "I think what happened was that people said, 'Antawn is going to be a Warrior for a while, so you've got to make him happy,' " Jamison says. "When P.J. got fired, they assumed it had been up to me. P.J. and I had our ups and downs, but no one in the organization asked me, 'Antawn, are you happy? How do you feel about the coach?' I found out P.J. got fired the same time as everyone else."
The dismissal of Carlesimo has done little to help the Warriors. They were 6-30 at week's end after losing 12 straight games, though one of their bright spots had been the 6'9", 223-pound Jamison, who was averaging 18.1 points and 7.9 rebounds. Coach and general manager Garry St. Jean believes Jamison has only scratched the surface of his abilities. "When he makes his move, he's quick, but he's got to get his footwork down," St. Jean says. "What he needs to develop is the kind of confidence that, when he's isolated on the wing or at the elbow, he's the boss."
The Warriors have taken great pains not to promote Jamison as a franchise player. They consider him just one piece of the puzzle in their efforts to rebuild the team. Jamison is still learning, and until he's finished, he must live with one gnawing criticism: He's no Vince Carter.
Line of the Week
Trying Times for David Wesley
Hornets guard David Wesley, Jan. 14 at the Knicks: 35 minutes, 2-of-11 FG, 1-of-2 FT, 6 points, 9 assists, 3 turnovers. Charlotte's first game since the death of swingman Bobby Phills was especially hard for Wesley, who police say was driving with a suspended license and drag racing with Phills when his friend lost control of his Porsche and crashed. Says one Hornets official, "David is destroyed. Truly destroyed."