Tuesday night’s Los Angeles Lakers win over the New York Knicks could have been a season highlight. With former coach Phil Jackson smirking on from a luxury suite above, the team that spurned Jackson as personnel chief absolutely demolished the team that recently hired Jackson, downing New York by 31 points. That blowout also included a 51-point third quarter for the Lakers, with Chris Kaman playing a big part in the release.
For Kaman to even be playing was a bit of a surprise. The former Clippers and Mavericks center hadn’t seen any court action in the month of March, so he was a bit taken aback to be told he was in the starting lineup as the Lakers lined up against what is still a very formidable Knick frontcourt. Kaman is clearly unhappy with the Lakers, and for unnamed reasons Laker coach Mike D’Antoni is no big fan of Kaman’s – because why else wouldn’t be play the talented center during this waste of a season?
On top of that inaction, Kaman also revealed that D’Antoni hadn’t even bothered talk to the banished big man for three weeks prior to Tuesday night. From Robert Morales at the Long Beach Press-Telegram:
Kaman, who said he hasn’t even had a conversation with D’Antoni since the two talked briefly before a March 3 game at Portland, was asked if he was excited to be playing.
“I’m just thrilled,” the 7-foot post said, somewhat sarcastically. “I’m enthralled. I’m ready to go.”
“I’m not at peace about it,” said Kaman, who has averaged 9.9 points and 5.6 rebounds when he has played. “I’m pissed about it. But I can’t control it, I’m not in charge, I don’t control the wheels.”
“It’s been a long season. I can’t wait until it’s over, I’ll say that.”
“I didn’t know what was going to happen when Pau [Gasol] went down last game, so I figured I might have played then and I didn’t,” Kaman said. “Then I didn’t know what to anticipate. Jordan Hill was out the last few weeks and I didn’t play at all. We only had two bigs, so I thought maybe I would play.”
Kaman went on to say, presumably with tongue placed firmly in cheek, that it was his fault for “not doing due diligence” on D’Antoni’s “style of play.” A style that has been debated endlessly in both Los Angeles and New York, one that has had a best-selling book published about it.
Though he has worked through a foot injury this season, Kaman truly has had a good year statistically, and it’s not as if D’Antoni wasn’t part of the process when the Lakers signed Kaman to either act as backup or starting center last summer. When summer turned to fall, though, Kaman found himself out of D’Antoni’s rotation, even as the Lakers struggled to put a run together in the days leading up to the hoped-for healthy return of both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. That reunion never took place, and yet the scene still hasn’t shifted. At least we hope his massive meat returns are working well.
Kaman managed 13 points, nine rebounds, and a block in under 23 minutes of work against the Knicks, though even with Pau Gasol out for the next two Laker road games, nothing is certain given both D’Antoni’s whims and Kaman’s honesty about being out of shape after sitting for so long. This is a bit of a shame, because the Lakers should have had a nice respite from another frustrating season on Tuesday. The national TV pairing against a similarly-disappointing team from New York was widely mocked online in the hours leading up to the contest, and yet the Lakers responded with gusto in the convincing win. They even got to rub it in Phil Jackson’s face.
Yet Kaman, in a third consecutive contract year and second consecutive season that saw him feuding with a veteran coach (Dallas Mavericks head man Rick Carlisle and Chris did not see eye to eye last season, figuratively and literally) while working in an age (31) that most start to decline within. He’s played in exactly half of the Lakers’ 70 games thus far, and we still don’t know why exactly D’Antoni shut him out completely, outside of guesswork about missed defensive assignments and his lumbering role in Los Angeles’ offense – currently ranked second-fastest in pace.
One can only hope that Kaman and his next team do their due diligence this summer, I suppose.
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