Chris Kaman handles his demotion appropriately (Getty Images)
Chris Kaman has played just 12 minutes in the last month with the Los Angeles Lakers, and those were only mop up minutes performed in extended garbage time in a Laker loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last week. The journeyman center and 2010 All-Star was expected to be a solid contributor for a Laker team desperate for early season offensive punch with Kobe Bryant out, but instead the three-time starter has been yanked from the rotation, in spite of providing solid, Kaman-esque per-minute output.
Though Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni is known for fielding smallish lineups in order to unleash a fast paced offensive attack on his team’s opponents, second-year center Robert Sacre has seen extended minutes alongside Pau Gasol, in addition to D’Antoni’s typical stretch lineups featuring Shawne Williams or Wesley Johnson up front. Kaman, to his credit, is keeping his chin up. From a discussion with ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne:
"It's absolutely not what I was looking for," Kaman told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Monday morning after the Lakers' shootaround. "It's not really in my control. I just try to keep working hard and be ready if the time comes. And if it doesn't, then it just wasn't meant to be."
He said he's heard nothing on that front and isn't expecting to, either.
"I haven't," Kaman said, when asked if he'd heard from the Lakers or anyone else about whether he'd be moved. "The conversations I've had have been, 'Let's stick with it. Let's play it out a little more. Let's see where things go.' So I just try to be ready and be positive. I'm not going to let it take away from me having fun and being a good person. I just do the best I can with what I've got."
Kaman has skills and is working in his prime, and despite some lingering back issues from earlier this year, he would seem like a fantastic trade prospect given his relatively low salary (at $3.1 million this year) and ability to contribute offensively. The former Clippers, Hornets and Mavericks center was thought to be a perfect high post contributor for the Lakers, signed on the cheap following Dwight Howard’s move to Houston, but for whatever reason it isn’t working out.
Though we’ve many quibbles with D’Antoni’s decision making, it’s hard to argue against the job he’s done this year – somehow cobbling together an 11-12 record despite missing Bryant and Steve Nash for most of the year, while dealing with a frustrated and often ineffective Pau Gasol. Gasol, who has never found a consistent role in D’Antoni’s offense, is still expressing signs of discontent as the Lakers rattle along, while also addressing incessant trade rumors. From Mark Medina at the Los Angeles Daily News:
That’s why Gasol said he’s given it no mind that ESPN.com recently reported the Lakers are open toward trading him amid his recent complaints about his role and his 14.4 points per game average on a career-low 41.8 percent shooting.
“I’m used to it by now,” Gasol said following the Lakers’ morning shootaround here at Philips Arena. “It’s been a constant thing for me. It’s like getting up from bed and having breakfast.”
“It means that I’m wanted,” Gasol said. “If no one wanted me, I wouldn’t be in trade rumors.”
We discussed Gasol’s trade options last week, and Kaman (who signed as a free agent over the summer) is now trade eligible as of Sunday. The Lakers might be capped out and paying the luxury tax, but they do have options with their two big men, and the squad certainly has holes to fill with point guards Nash, Steve Blake, and Jordan Farmar all out with significant injuries.
These moves take two to tango, though, and while Kaman and Gasol’s past play should leave teams interested, the trade market isn’t exactly rife with sound starting-quality point men available – as we witnessed last week when the NBA nearly went into conniptions just because Kyle freakin’ Lowry became available. Toss in tax concerns, Gasol’s massive (if expiring) deal, and Kaman’s modest salary, and there will be roadblocks. This also entails us presuming that the Lakers want to make a deal featuring the two, which we’ve no real indication of.
D’Antoni has made his decision, though. Kaman is out of the rotation, and Gasol is not to be trusted with the role that worked so well for him over the years. Which is a bit of a shame, in spite of that impressive record, as we watch two more NBA-level big man see their careers scuttled for whatever reason.
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