OAKLAND — The only consistency marking this Lakers’ season has involved their inconsistent rotations and revolving injuries.
So it should hardly become surprising that the Lakers (13-13) will feature their 12th starting lineup in tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors (14-13) at Oracle Arena because of Pau Gasol’s absence from a respiratory illness.
Gasol had remained the lone player to start at 26 games, but he had battled respiratory issues at the beginning of this season. So the Lakers will start Chris Kaman, whose six points on 3-of-6 shooting, three rebounds and two blocks in the team’s win Friday over Minnesota marked only his second appearance in the past 14 games.
“A little bit of my making too,” D’Antoni said. “I caused some of it. We’ve had some weird injuries.”
There’s been plenty.
Kobe Bryant missed the first 19 games while rehabbing his left Achilles tendon, and is expected to miss the next six weeks because of a fractured left knee. Steve Nash is expected to sit out for another month because of persisting nerve issues in his back, an injury that has kept him out for 14 games. The Lakers have penciled Steve Blake out for another five weeks because of a torn ligament in his right elbow. There’s a possibility Jordan Farmar could return when the Lakers play Christmas Day against the Miami Heat after sitting out the past eight games because of a strained left hamstring.
D’Antoni expects Gasol to return when the Lakers Monday in Phoenix. But for now, D’Antoni will rely on Kaman after playing a limited role all season.
“I’m giving him an opportunity. He played well last night so I’m sure he’ll look forward to it,” Lakers coach D’Antoni said. “He’s been playing well, but Chris will be ready to go. He’ll be aggressive. His games are similar a little bit. I look forward toward seeing him play.”
That has rarely been the case this season.
Kaman had battled both back spasms and soon fell off D’Antoni’s depth chart as he’s juggled his preference for either a stronger interior defender (Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre) or a quicker stretch forward (Shawne Williams).
“I didn’t know what to anticipate,” Kaman said. “Two days ago I didn’t know if I was ever going to play again this season. I had no idea. I just have to do whatever I do, whether it’s five minutes or 25 minutes. I don’t expect anything out of this. I’ll just play hard and do my job. That’s what I’m paid to do.”
The Lakers signed Kaman to a one-year deal at the mini mid-level exception worth $3.2 million as a consolation prize toward losing out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. It appeared to work as Kaman and Gasol featured solid chemistry in preseason play because of their versatility in the post and on pick-and-roll sets.
But then Kaman stayed sidelined for 10 games during the exhibition season because of an intestinal illness. Kaman then played in the Lakers’ first 12 games, averaging 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. But then back spasms kept him out for three weeks.
Kaman then dreaded a string of “D-N-P’s.”
Does Kaman feel optimistic the Lakers could ever return to the tandem between him and Gasol?
“I’m not sure they want that,” Kaman said. “I don’t know. It seems like from how things have gone so far this year, that’s not what they’re looking for. They want a more mobile lineup and have a smaller four or five whoever it may be in there to spread the floor a little bit and keep the ball moving.”
That’s why Kaman has made very little of his sudden promotion. After all, D’Antoni expects Gasol will return when the Lakers play in Phoenix on Monday.
“I can’t predict anything,” Kaman said. “I can’t control anything. When I go in there and get an opportunity, I take advantage of it if I can. That’s how it goes for me. I missed a whole month of basketball, watching on the sidelines and staying positive and keep working hard and doing the right things.”
Considering the circumstances, Kaman has still looked solid offensively.
In two games since falling in the depth chart, Kaman averaged 7.5 points on 60 percent shooting in 14 minutes. Still, Kaman conceded the challenges in both finding his timing and preventing his back from becoming stiff due to the depleted chances to stay warm.
“I haven’t played in a month. I’m not going to try to overdo anything,” Kaman said. “I’ll be patient. I’ll take the opportunities when I get them and then see how it goes.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org