DALLAS — The first week of the regular season hasn’t just marked a time for Lakers forward Chris Kaman to audition for more minutes after a stomach bug sidelined him for the tail end of training camp.
It’s also taken Kaman down memory lane where he will play against teams he had played for in his 11-year career, including the Clippers (last week), Dallas Mavericks (tonight) and New Orleans Hornets (Friday). Kaman remained largely positive on his eight-year career with the Clippers, though he proclaimed the Lakers’ superiority, criticized the organization for failing to tell him directly he was part of the Chris Paul trade and recalled how stingy Clippers own Donald Sterling ran his franchise.
Kaman continued sharing his brutal honesty on his lone season last year with the Mavericks, outlining the difference between Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni.
“Coach Carlisle is uptight and plays games with people here and there,” Kaman said. “But Coach D’Antoni is more relaxed and goes with the flow and tells you to play the game. He lets the guys play and gets a feel and lets you make mistakes and play. That’s the kind of basketball that I like to play. You can’t micromanage every tight situation and pull guys in and out. It doesn’t work that way. If you have some superstars, you might get away with that. But for some guys who aren’t as good as the superstars, it’s hard to do that.”
Kaman averaged 10.5 points and 5.6 rebounds last season, a drop-off from his career averages of 11.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. He also suffered injuries, including a 10-game absence because of a concussion. Kaman’s playing time fluctuated throughout the season because of his defensive deficiencies and surprisingly difficult chemistry with Dirk Nowitzki, who are friends and played together on the German national team. Kaman came off the bench in 52 games, sat in others and even started in a game where Carlisle yanked him after two minutes.
“I didn’t fit into Coach Carlisle’s style and what he wanted to do,” Kaman said. “I figured out another way to make it work somewhere else.”
Kaman’s still adjusting to the Lakers, averaging 8.8 points on 58.6 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds in 16.5 minutes per game. He has since expressed hope D’Antoni will play him more with Pau Gasol after the two big men mostly paired together during training camp until Kaman’s stomach issues. But Kaman has remained largely deferential to D’Antoni.
“Coach is real candid and real flexible and honest and takes things like they are,” Kaman said. “You’re honest and upfront with him and he’s the same way back. It’s odd to see a coach that has that style. But I like it. But that’s the kind of guy I am. I’m upfront and I like to wear everything on my sleeve so you know where I’m at. Some coaches don’t like that. It can get you in trouble a little bit.”
Not with D’Antoni, though.
“I would think it would be odd if he didn’t see it any other way,” D’Antoni said of Kaman. “He wants to play and see stuff and where other guys aren’t as quite frank also want to play. It’s not odd. But that’s his personality. And that’s great. But the bottom line is when you get on the floor, prove it. It’s the players that will dictate it. Show it. Everybody will see it. And I’m sure we can make a big case why Jordan Hill should be playing. Just be careful.”
It remains to be seen whether either will have a bigger role, though. D’Antoni rattled off that he prefers his players racking up assists, three-pointers and providing great defense.
“You just have to weigh the differences of playing two big guys traditionally like everybody plays versus spreading the floor, running a little faster and getting more 3 point shots,” D’Antoni said. “You have to weigh the differences. If you’re really good at the other one, then obviously we’ll go with that. If we’re not good with that, we need to play the two bigs more.”
With four games proving a small sample size to make any sweeping conclusions, Kaman anxiously awaits whether his playing time increases. But unlike his time with Dallas, Kaman appears to be enjoying working with his head coach thus far.
“I’ll try to do the best I can and play well with the minutes I have,” Kaman said. “Hopefully at some point, we’re back to that position. But I don’t make those decisions.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org