"My rookie year I'd get the ball and just go," he says. "I was doing everything 100 miles an hour. Now I'm reading my defender. I'm deciding what move to make by the way he's playing me."
At week's end Jamison was averaging 24.1 points, which ranked him 10th in the league, along with 8.1 rebounds (3.1 on the offensive boards). Though he was making 48.9% of his shots, there was plenty of room for improvement in his free throw (61.8%) and three-point (32.7%) shooting. After converting only five threes in 17 attempts in his first two seasons, he had 17 in 52 tries through Sunday. "He's tough to defend against now because he's got so many ways to score," says Toronto forward Corliss Williamson. "I saw him a lot when I played in Sacramento, and you have to be happy for a guy who's worked so hard. He's earned everything he's gotten."
However, he still doesn't have bragging rights over Carter, whose Raptors have defeated Jamison and the Warriors both times they have faced each other, including last Friday's 108-92 win in which Carter outscored Jamison 29 to 28. "I've got to beat him soon," Jamison said with a half-smile after the game. "I can't take another summer of him talking smack."
Though they were rarely matched against each other, they did go head-to-head in an intense sequence in the fourth quarter, when Carter hit a jumper over Jamison. "He started talking," Jamison says. "I said, 'Please come guard me.' He fouled me, just like at practice in college. Vince knows he can't guard me in the post."
After the game Jamison was the last Warrior to leave the locker room. The team bus was idling outside the Oakland Coliseum Arena, ready to take the players to the airport, but he had one last postgame obligation to fulfill. He walked back out to the court, where about 40 fellow North Carolina alumni were the only people still in the stands, waiting to have their picture taken with him. Carter had already made an appearance, but the Tar Heels fans weren't leaving until they had posed with Jamison.
Which is another way to know how a young player is approaching NBA stardom: when he's the headliner and Vince Carter is his opening act.