- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- It's only been six games, so the jury is still out on Mike D'Antoni's ultimate impact. But give the coach credit for this if nothing else: His system has transformed the Los Angeles Lakers' bench from a bunch of sorry substitutes to the Jodie & Jamison Show.
Antawn Jamison scored a game-high 33 points and Jodie Meeks scored 21 on 7-for-8 shooting from 3-point land as the reserve duo nearly matched the 56 points scored by the Denver Nuggets' starting five in the Lakers' 122-103 win Friday.
The Lakers have been up-and-down as their 3-3 record suggests since D'Antoni took over, but it only has been up for Jamison (who's putting up 17.8 points in the last four games) and Meeks (who is 15-for-29 on 3-pointers since D'Antoni first assumed his seat on the sidelines).
"Me and him, we've been kind of like roommates here lately," Jamison said of his relationship with Meeks since joining the team as free agents this offseason. "We know we were brought here for a certain role, and we've been struggling together, as well."
They struggled for different reasons. Meeks simply was out of the rotation, parked on the pine. Jamison said he put pressure on himself to not only learn the offense that ex-coach Mike Brown was running but also wracked his brain to fit in among the pecking order of the Lakers' stars.
"I didn't think that was possible," Jamison said after the game.
With D'Antoni he's learning that a lot of things are possible, including him as a 36-year old on a veteran's minimum contract replacing Pau Gasol, who is four years his junior and makes 15 times as much money, in the starting lineup at some point.
"I don't want to lose Pau, but at the same time we do have to spread the floor," D'Antoni said.
When asked directly if he was considering lineup changes, D'Antoni certainly didn't cement Gasol's position as a starter but didn't hint that any swap is imminent.
"Not yet," D'Antoni said. "We're way too early."
Said Gasol of Jamison and Meeks, the first pair of Lakers reserves to come off the bench to each score more than 20 points in a game since Bryant (25 points) and Nick Van Exel (20 points) did it in 1998: "They're in perfect spots to get their games at a high level."
He wasn't directly referring to Jamison's spot on the bench versus him starting. At least we don't think he was.
If D'Antoni doesn't start Jamison, there's always the chance he helps Jamison make a bid for another Sixth Man of the Year award, which he won in 2003-04 with Dallas.
"I'll ride him," D'Antoni said. "I'll probably have to kill him. But he can do it. He said he can do it, so we'll see."
Both Jamison and Meeks were immediate reclamation projects for D'Antoni as soon as he took over the team.
D'Antoni told Jamison he envisioned him taking over the role that Shawn Marion played for him in Phoenix and gave the forward four words to live by: "Don't think. Take shots."
When Jamison was asked what Meeks was doing right these days, he repeated D'Antoni's mantra: "He's not thinking. He's letting it ride. Like he told Kobe and all, 'You get out the way, I got this one.' That's what we need, especially guys coming off this bench. We need to set a tone and set an identity of what we're going to do."
For Meeks, who once scored 54 points in a college game at Kentucky, Friday represented him coming full circle already this season -- from a regular DNP collector to putting on one of his finest games as a pro.
"Pretty close," Meeks said when asked if it was the hottest he has ever been. "I had some big games in college, but not too many games when I only missed two shots."
With their recent performances, Jamison and Meeks are making the Lakers believe they didn't miss on two free-agent decisions.
"They could be two major parts that we need to keep developing and just give the space," D'Antoni said. "Let them go."
And watch them go off.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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