After spending most of his time on the Lakers sitting on the bench and making teammates laugh with unfiltered opinions, Chris Kaman will start at center when the Lakers (18-33) host the Utah Jazz (17-33) tonight at Staples Center.
Kaman has appeared in only 27 of the Lakers’ 51 games this season, mostly because Mike D’Antoni has preferred Robert Sacre’s defense and Ryan Kelly’s floor spacing. After initially stating Kaman and Pau Gasol would have complementary offensive skillsets, D’Antoni also believes pairing Gasol and Kaman would become counterproductive.
But with Gasol out with a strained right groin and Kaman posting a season-high 27 points in the Lakers’ 92-86 loss Sunday to Chicago, D’Antoni will pair Kaman alongside Shawne Williams. D’Antoni believes Williams floor spacing and toughness could offset some of the defensive limitations he attributes to Kaman. For what it’s worth, the NBA’s trade deadline on Feb. 20 remains a little more than a week away.
“Chris has been playing well. Offensively we struggled a little bit to start the game so he’ll help there,” D’Antoni said. “We wanted to keep defense. Robert and Ryan were giving us a tandem of finesse and toughness inside. Now with Shawne and Chris, we’re still trying to keep the toughness and have finesse. It doesn’t change a whole lot.”
Kaman has averaged 16.5 points on 56 percent shooting and six rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench through four games during Gasol’s absence. Kaman had also started five games this season, averaging 11.8 points on 46.4 percent shooting and 9.2 rebounds. But despite the Lakers signing Kaman to the mini mid-level exception worth $3.2 million, Kaman has mostly played a limited role.
“The biggest factor was that Chris played 15 minutes in a row and he got a little tired,” D’Antoni said about Kaman starting. “We need his offensive output. That way I can start him, rest him and then put him back in instead of playing a long stretch.”
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