The Lakers’ consolation prize after losing the Dwight Howard sweepstakes stepped foot at the team’s practice facility Tuesday, oozing enthusiasm on everything about purple and gold.
Veteran center Chris Kaman gushed about Mike D’Antoni’s offense that centers on pick-and-rolls at a fluid tempo. Kaman expressed excitement about playing with Kobe Bryant. Kaman offered no preference as to whether he will start or come off the bench.
For all the talent the Lakers lost in Howard going to the Houston Rockets, it appears Kaman’s versatility in the post and team mindset could mitigate Howard’s void and eliminate the drama surrounding his lone season with the Lakers.
“I’m here to do a job. Whatever it is, I’ll do it. It just depends on whatever the coach needs me to do is where I’ll be at,” said Kaman, who accepted a one-year deal at the mini-mid level exception ($3.2 million to play for the Lakers). “I’m confident I’ll get along with coach and have a good relationship. It’s a two way street. But I’m not a controversial kind of guy. So I don’t think it will be that big of a deal.”
That was hardly the case last season.
Howard had philosophical differences with D’Antoni’s offense, which featured him more on pick-and-roll plays than post-ups. Howard labored through back and shoulder injuries. Although he posted 17.1 points and a league-leading12.4 rebounds, those contributions marked the lowest numbers since the 2006-07 season with Orlando. Howard also didn’t respond well to Bryant’s demanding leadership style.
Kaman spoke as if those issues wouldn’t bother him.
After spending eight of his 10 NBA seasons with the Clippers (2003-11), Kaman sounded particularly intrigued with what it will be like teaming up with Bryant.
“You always hear a lot about how hard he works and stuff like that. I’m just interested to see what it is,” Kaman said. “I want to see what the big deal is. I’m not knocking him at all. Everybody knows his mentality is different than most players, and that’s why he is where he’s at. He’s a great player.”
Even though he expressed uncertainty on how the dynamic will work out, Kaman also sounded unconcerned about the dynamic between him and Pau Gasol. Through seven games last April, the Lakers’ output from both Howard (21.6 points) and Gasol (17.6 points) represented their highest all season when they played together in the starting lineup. But the two didn’t consistently co-exist partly because of persisting injuries and D’Antoni’s preference for small ball.
Kaman hardly envisioned any hiccups.
“Coach D’Antoni’s offense is a little bit different than most coaches. I like his style,” Kaman said. “They have a lot of up and down up tempo, a lot of Steve Nash pick and rolls. I think the game is changing and the game is evolving into a pick and roll game and a face up game.”
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