After resisting the idea for most of the season, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said he will start Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman together for tonight’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.
What precipitated the changed entailed nothing more than Kaman posting 28 points on 13 of 19 shooting and 17 rebounds in the Lakers’ win Sunday over Phoenix.
“Chris played really well. It’s something we have to look at, but it’s going to affect other people,” D’Antoni said. “We’ve had this discussion. Somebody is going to pay for it. We’ll see how it goes.”
D’Antoni declined who will become the casualty in what will mark the Lakers’ 32nd starting lineup of the season. But in recent days, he has said his reluctance to play Kaman partly entailed not wanting to reduce playing time for Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly and Jordan Hill.
Pau Gasol admitted not feeling fully healthy stemmed from vertigo, an illness that made him miss the past four games. He appeared in higher spirits a day after lamenting Kaman’s lack of playing time this season. Kaman has averaged 10.3 points and 5.9 rebounds, but has appeared in only 38 games this season.
“We communicated how we can not be on top of each other so the spacing is still right,” Gasol said. “Just competing and utilize our size to protect the paint and control the boards. That would be a big plus so we can control the boards and win that battle and keep them under one shot.”
Gasol and Kaman played in a handful of preseason games. But after sitting out in the middle of training camp stemmed from a stomach virus during the team’s pr-season trip to China, D’Antoni relied on a range of so-caleld stretch forwards, including Shawne Williams and Ryan Kelly. Amid the losing, why did it take this long for D’Antoni to give Gasol and Kaman a chance?
“We lost. You get a sense of how you want to play and a sense of what looks good and have a sense that we were better with Shawne Williams back then with spreading the floor and playing an up tempo game. Up until the injuries, I thought our record showed it,” D’Antoni said, referring to the Lakers’ 10-9 start. “Then when the injuries hit, I don’t care who was playing. Without a point guard, it was going to be tough to win.”
D’Antoni specifically cited about his concerns about the lack of floor spacing. Gasol and Kaman are not considered strong defenders. Gasol and Kaman played together well in the preseason. But their starts through three games this season led to three seasons, although one of the wins entailed a signature win against the Houston Rockets in early November.
“It’s been pretty up and down all year. The lineups have changed as we know all the time,” Gasol said. “But this isn’t a lineup we have gone to much at all. It’s better late than never. We’ll see how it works. I’m getting close to 100 percent and will make it work better. The spacing is definitely a part of it. But you lose some things and win at others. I think with our size, we’re both active and our IQ and experience should make a difference.”
How much that helps could depend on Gasol’s health. He plans to travel for Wednesday’s game in Sacramento. But he still acknowledged feeling lightheaded. To expedite his recovery, Gasol has completed exercises that involves rotating his neck while opening and closing his eyes to simulate dizziness.
“I don’t feel too well yet,” Gasol said. “I’m hoping it’s just part of the process and that it’s just one step at a time and there’s no setbacks.”
Meanwhile, D’Antoni considers both Steve Nash (back) and Xavier Henry (right knee) probable for tonight’s game.