Kaman returns to lead Clippers over Nets 106-95
Kaman had 22 points and seven rebounds, and the Clippers snapped a four-game skid with an easy 106-95 victory. The 7-foot center, who missed the previous four games with a sore lower back after being the only Clipper to play in each of the first 35 contests, played 30 minutes and made 10 of 16 shots.
“I just got tired of sitting out,” Kaman said. “It was four games in five days, and I hadn’t done any cardio or anything to get myself back in condition. The more games you miss, the harder it is to come back. So I made the decision to go. I worked with our muscle guy earlier today and it felt really good, so I thought I would take the chance.”
The Clippers shot 55.6 percent, improving to 10-4 when they’re at 50 percent or better. Marcus Camby(notes) had 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Craig Smith(notes) added 18 points off the bench. Point guard Baron Davis(notes) had nine points and nine assists before sitting out the fourth quarter.
“Chris is one of our go-to guys, and he spaces the floor, so he’s an important weapon for us in our offense,” Davis said. “It was good to have him out there because we can always throw the ball down low to get a bucket.”
Brook Lopez(notes), the only Nets player to start and play in all 40 games, had 23 points and eight rebounds, and reserve Kris Humphries(notes) had a career-high 21 points. Lopez started the day averaging 18.8 points, third in the NBA among centers. Kaman came in averaging 20.4 points.
Since the start of the 2007-08 season, the Clippers are 15-65 when Kaman isn’t in the lineup, and 45-79 when he is.
“This is a totally different team with Kaman in there,” Nets interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “They’re a very aggressive team that hurts you in the paint, and we did not meet their force with force.”
The Nets, a league-worst 3-37, have started a calendar year 0-8 for the first time since 1981 under interim coach Bob MacKinnon. The franchise record in that department is 0-11 under Kevin Loughery in 1977, their first season following the NBA-ABA merger. They also started 1991 with an 0-7 mark.
“There’s no way to describe it, except that we’re in a dark tunnel,” Vandeweghe said. “There’s no question it was a tough situation to come into, and there’s no sugarcoating it. But you have to stay positive. Being negative does not help.”
New Jersey has to win seven of its remaining 42 games to avoid tying the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers’ 9-73 record for the worst in NBA history. That might not be as easy as it sounds.
The Nets are 3-20 since Vandeweghe added head coach to his general manager duties after Lawrence Frank was fired on Nov. 29. All three wins have come against Eastern Conference teams with losing records. They have lost 26 consecutive games against Western Conference clubs since beating Denver 114-70 on Feb. 7, 2009, at the Meadowlands.
“On a day-to-day basis, it’s not a lot of fun,” Vandeweghe said. “But what gets you through is keeping in mind that you’re trying to build the right way. So you’ve got to try to keep it fun for the guys, keep them engaged and keep them playing hard.
“The first thing is to get people healthy. Not everybody’s been at 100 percent, and that’s been an issue for us. People are in and out of the lineup, and that’s made it more difficult.”
After losing by 40 points to the defending NBA champion Lakers and one point to Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland in their previous two games, the Clippers finally got a cupcake. They never trailed, building a 15-point lead on Smith’s dunk with 3:21 left in the first quarter and shooting 61 percent from the field in the first half to take a 61-41 advantage at the break.
“You can’t give up 39 points in the first quarter and expect to win a basketball game,” Vandeweghe said. “I did not see any effort on the defensive end. The guys played OK the last three quarters, but you can’t play for just three quarters—not in this league.”
The Nets missed 10 of their first 14 shots and finished at 45.8 percent from the field en route to their eighth wire-to-wire defeat this season. They never got closer than 11 points (with 45 seconds remaining), after Eric Gordon’s(notes) layup gave the Clippers their biggest lead, 90-66, with 11:44 left.
NOTES: The Clippers have beaten the Nets the last six times they have met at Staples Center. … Vandeweghe said before the game that assistant coach Tom Barrise would become a special assistant to club president Rod Thorn, and that associate coach-advance scout Jimmy Sann would replace him on the bench. Sann originally joined the coaching staff during the 2005-06 season.