OAKLAND – If the Lakers haven’t caught on by now, they should.
When it comes to a role players’ time in the rotation, be ready to start, come off the bench or even go through a string of “D-N-P’s.”
Chris Kaman has learned this unexpectedly, the Lakers’ consolation prize toward missing Dwight Howard this offseason falling out of the rotation this season because of back spasms and differing from Mike D’Antoni’s preference for either a strong interior defender or a stretch forward.
But in the Lakers’ 102-83 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday at Oracle Arena, Kaman replaced Pau Gasol in the starting lineup because of a respiratory issue. Kaman posted 10 points on 5-of-17 shooting and 17 rebounds in 28 minutes, a performance Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni described as both “okay” and “rusty.”
After playing for two consecutive games following a string of missed appearances in 12 of the past 13 contests, has Kaman climbed back into the rotation?
“We’ll see. He’s going to play some,” D’Antoni said. “Again, I’m going to try to explain it. It’s not what he did or didn’t do. It’s how do I play Robert, Jordan Hill, Pau, Chris Kaman, spread the floor, that’s the thing. It’s a numbers thing. It has nothing to do with players. You look and see who plays well with each other and try to figure it out. Sometimes a good player gets squeezed out and Chris did. Now we’re trying to get him back in there. We’ll see. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue this.”
Kaman would likely start if Gasol doesn’t return when the Lakers play on Monday against the Phoenix Suns. But Kaman fell out of D’Antoni’s rotation because of Hill’s dependable energy, Sacre’s decent defending and Williams’ floor spacing. It also didn’t help that Kaman’s back spasms kept him out for three weeks.
Rustiness aside, Kaman still appeared active on the boards and on finding his shot.
“It’s tough shoes to fill. Pau is a great player, but obviously with him sick, you have to do what you have to do,” Kaman said. “I wanted to come out and do the best I can do. I missed a lot of open jumpers and a lot of open shots that I know I can make. Just being out for a month is tough. I’m going to get better at it. We’re going to be better at it. We have to be more consistent.”
But with the Lakers fielding 12 different starting lineups because of overlapping injuries and evolving coaching preferences, that part won’t stay consistent.
“When you don’t play for a whole month and you’re hurt with your back a little bit and not be able to practice and try to stay in shape, it’s not easy,” Kaman said. “But it’s a long season and you have to be ready.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org