Can Nathan Jawai expect to see more playing time in Dallas?
Anton over at The Sport Count has come up with a gem of an article about the travels of Bamaga product Nathan Jawai.
Last year Jawai left the shores of Australia to try his luck in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors but he spent most of his time parked on the bench or bouncing around the D-League scene with Idaho.
I'll leave the rest for you to read about. Great job Anton, and I love dropping by to see what the boys from Sydney have produced.
"Nathan Jawai must be accustomed to change.
As a teenager, he was plucked from serious obscurity — his hometown of Bamaga is closer to Papua New Guinea than any major Australian city, located at the remote northern tip of Australia, with a population in the low four-digits — and scored a spot at the Australian Institute of Sport, a government-funded, live-in training centre.
From there, just 19 years old, Jawai entered the National Basketball League as a teenage wrecking ball, all explosive dunks and big rebounds. He was named Rookie of the Year, putting up 17.2 points, 9.4 boards and 1.3 blocks. A big leap; from small-town kid to dominating grown professionals.
With his ridiculous size, soft (if sporadic) shooting touch, and beastly post moves, teams across the Atlantic were bound to pay attention. In Jawai, teams saw a larger Glen Davis, and a (much) smaller Shaquille O’Neal. More than that, they saw upside and size. The classic project player.
And so it was that Nathan found himself in Toronto, across the other side of the world, the first Indigenous Australian to make it to the NBA, paving the way for Patty Mills, the electric point guard taken with the 55th pick in 2009 by the Trail Blazers.
Jawai’s rookie season didn’t go smoothly, a cardiac abnormality keeping him off the court until mid-January. Even when he was cleared for play, he donned a Raptors jersey and took to the court just six times.
‘I didn’t have a good feeling at the Raptors,‘ Jawai says. The team was fine, the city great and he got along with teammates (’we’d go out, have dinner’) but he was rarely utilised, spending 10 games with the Idaho Stampede in the D-League.
When he entered the Australian national league, he was effective immediately. He seemed to easily find confidence in his size, knowing he could bump defenders out of the way, or just jump over them. In the NBA, not so much. His size helps, and his strength is unquestionable. It’s just a matter of harnessing them.
Now, for his sophomore campaign, Nathan finds himself in Dallas, sent there as fodder in the complex four-team trade that landed Shawn Marion at the Mavericks, and Hedo Turkoglu at the Raptors.
Is it difficult adjusting to a new city, new teammates? ‘Yeah, because I haven’t been playing much,’ says Jawai. ‘This is just my 2nd year. It’s a new environment.‘
But, of course, he’d be accustomed to new environments; used to packing his bags and carving out an existence somewhere new and unseen. ‘I’ve got to take it as a positive. Deal with it. I’ve just to got to work hard, try to make it into the rotation at the Mavericks.‘
How likely is he to see minutes in the coming season? ‘I can’t say anything right now…I’ve only been [in Dallas] for a week.‘
With Drew Gooden recently signed, and Shawn Marion bound to spend a lot of time at the four-spot, Erick Dampier copping an injury or getting sent away in a trade – opening up minutes at centre — looks like the fastest road to game time.
But Jawai isn’t concentrating on settling in at Dallas just yet. Not right now. He’s busy.
‘Just working with the national team,’ Jawai says of his off-season. That team recently beat Argentina for the first time in 20 years. Jawai was a key piece, contributing 22 points and 7 boards and — more importantly — keeping Luis Scola (2-8) well and truly in check. His goal with the Boomers for the World Championships in 2010, and the Olympics in 2012? ‘We’re going to work together as a team to try to get a medal.’
Easier said than done, with international competition fierce, and the Boomers so young, now building around Jawai and Patty Mills. But for a man so used to wrenching success out of change, nothing seems impossible."