The Lakers’ newly acquired big man remains a familiar name to plenty of Los Angeles fans.
But for those in need of a Chris Kaman introduction, he brings many different qualities than Dwight Howard.
First, the bad.
Kaman hardly fits the defensive prowess that Howard possessed when he won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award three in the past five seasons. Kaman doesn’t even match up to Howard when he was limited last season because of a surgically repaired back, and, the Lakers suspect, inconsistent effort led to diminished athleticism and mobility. Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks let Kaman walk after one season partly because of his defense.
“Defensively I’m a completely different player,” Kaman said. “He’s an above-the-rim player. I can’t play above the rim. He’s been the defensive player of the year multiple times. It’s just a whole different style of basketball. He can just go up there and wait for the ball to come up to him and swat it. It’s completely different.”
Now, the good.
Howard has been considered the league’s best center because his athleticism allows him to overpower people. But Kaman bodes superior in his willingness to play pick-and-roll, post moves and reliable mid-range jumper. Not surprisingly, Kaman’s career 74.4 percent mark from the free throw line trumps Howard’s 57.7 percent clip. All those ingredients ensured Kaman averaging a career 11.8 points and eight rebounds and a lone All-Star appearance in his 10-year career, including eight seasons with the Clippers.
Those qualities should also help Kaman mesh well with Pau Gasol, who became confined last season to a facilitator role along the perimeter partly because of Howard’s limited mid-range game.
“I’m a similar player as Pau. I think I’m inside and outside like he is,” Kaman said. “I think he’s expanded his game as well. He shot some threes last year. I don’t know if I’m going to do that. But I think I complement his game well. We’ll see how it goes. Sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes things work out great. You never can tell what happens.”
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni pose for the Lakers photographer. The Los Angeles Lakers held a media day at their El Segundo practice facility. Players were photographed for team materials, and interviewed by the press. El Segundo, CA. 9/27/2013. photo by (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News)
Shortly after the Lakers laced up their sneakers, worked up a sweat and studied some film, Steve Nash sensed the peaceful settings surrounding him.
Only a season after a lack of training camp under coach Mike D’Antoni provided a poor foundation toward a first-round flameout to the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers have yearned for this moment. The time when the Lakers have a full two weeks to iron out concepts and rotations. The time when they can play basketball without worrying about the bottom-line results. The time when they can build chemistry naturally instead of mixing in formulas that don’t work.
The dynamic created an environment so striking during the Lakers’ opening weekend of training camp that Nash couldn’t help but point it out to D’Antoni.
“He told me, ‘It’s a little bit different,’ ” D’Antoni said after the first of the Lakers two practices Sunday. “I go, ‘Yeah, it feels different.’ ”
Pau Gasol is interviewed by former Laker and current NBA TV reporter Rick Fox.Pau Gasol is interviewed by former Laker and current NBA TV reporter Rick Fox.The Los Angeles Lakers held a media day at their El Segundo practice facility. Players were photographed for team materials, and interviewed by the press. El Segundo, CA. 9/27/2013. photo by (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News)
Pau Gasol survived yet another season where the Lakers didn’t trade him, but uncertainties still remain.
Those go beyond Gasol’s health after spending this offseason recovering from a knee procedure that entailed reducing the pain in his tendons. After the nixed Chris Paul deal two years ago opened up a floodgate of Gasol offers that the Lakers have rejected, will they want to keep him once his $19 million contract expires after this season?
Not that it’s surprising. But Gasol admitted that the Lakers haven’t begun any formal talks with his agent, Arn Tellum, on a possible extension.
“At some point, if the team is interested, they will approach me and there will be some meeting,” Gasol said. “But I’m not sure when or how. I’m sure it will depend how I perform during the season. The better I perform, the more interested they will be to sign me.”
Pau Gasol is interviewed.The Los Angeles Lakers held a media day at their El Segundo practice facility. Players were photographed for team materials, and interviewed by the press. El Segundo, CA. 9/27/2013. photo by (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News)
For a team oozing enthusiasm about finally having a full training camp under Mike D’Antoni, the Lakers are still missing key ingredients.
The most obvious absence involves Kobe Bryant, who has spent the first two days of training camp mixing in team film study while rehabbing his surgically repaired left tendon. The others involve Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, who will sit out in parts of the Lakers’ two-a-day sessions after spending the past offseasons rehabbing their respective hamstring and knee injuries.
“I just don’t want them to push it early,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Steve Nash. The Los Angeles Lakers held a media day at their El Segundo practice facility. Players were photographed for team materials, and interviewed by the press. El Segundo, CA. 9/27/2013. photo by (John McCoy/Los An8eles Daily News)
The frustrated feelings over an injured body, a failed season and an uncomfortable role with his first year with the Lakers all spilled out when Steve Nash persistently spent this summer rehabbing. Then, shortly before training camp began Saturday, Nash was informed about a statistic that he’d hardly want lumped into his resume as a two-time NBA MVP and league’s fifth all-time leader in assists.
Nash, at age 39, also represents the NBA’s oldest player.
“It’s not a privilege I ever really dreamed about,” Nash said Saturday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “It’s pretty strange and surreal in a way. I’m thrilled to still be playing. I don’t feel as old as I probably look to some of these guys.”
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant acted indifferently about Dwight Howard leaving the Lakers for the Houston Rockets this offseason. Credit: (John McCoy/Los An8eles Daily News)
Very little could sour Kobe Bryant’s mood.
He took an overnight flight from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles a mere three hours before the Lakers’ media day began Saturday at the team’s facility in El Segundo. No problem – Bryant slept for 10 hours on the plane. Bryant sounded unsure when he will return from healing his left Achilles’ tendon. No worries – Bryant says will remain patient. The Lakers’ championship prospects this season seem deem. Not an issue – Bryant still maintains optimism.
But there was one subject that soured Bryant’s mood in an otherwise joyful day.
The Lakers envisioned him as their franchise leaders after acquiring him last season in a four-team, 12-player trade from the Orlando Magic. Instead, Howard left for the Houston Rockets.
“I really don’t give a [expletive],” Bryant said. “It is what it is. If he came back, it would’ve been great. If he didn’t, then it’s not. It is what it is.”
Pau Gasol is interviewed. The Los Angeles Lakers held a media day at their El Segundo practice facility. Players were photographed for team materials, and interviewed by the press. El Segundo, CA. 9/27/2013. photo by (John McCoy/Los An8eles Daily News)
Pau Gasol has seemingly showed he has nine lives with the Lakers, staying on the franchise he loves despite demoted roles and endless trade rumors.
But even if Gasol arrived to Lakers’ media day on Saturday full of good spirits in having a chance to complete his fifth season donning purple and gold, there remains yet another hurdle he will have to climb.
He reported at full health after having a procedures this offseason to treat the painful tendons in both of his knees, but Gasol has yet to complete basketball-related drills.
“I’m getting there,” Gasol said. “Now training camp is going to be important with how we manage practices and how the knee reacts to the load of work.”
Kobe Bryant is interviewed.The Los Angeles Lakers held a media day at their El Segundo practice facility. Players were photographed for team materials, and interviewed by the press. El Segundo, CA. 9/27/2013. photo by (John McCoy/Los An8eles Daily News)
Kobe Bryant walked gingerly across the Lakers’ practice floor, a sign that he’s both progressing surrounding his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon and eager for the 2013-14 season to start.
It’s also a sign that, despite what a skeptical general public may think, Bryant remains optimistic about the Lakers’ championship prospects.
“Our expectations are always the same with every single season,” Bryant said. “That’s to improve every single day with the mindset to win a championship. That’s the goal we have to have. The only way you can do that is coming out every single day working, understanding each other and supporting each other.”
The Lakers continue to put the final touches on their training camp roster.
They officially added 10-year NBA center Dan Gadzuric to a one-year roster at the veteran’s minimum worth $1.4 million, though it’s not yet clear if any of his contract is guaranteed. The former UCLA product spent the 2012-13 season playing for Marinos de Anzoátegui in Venezuela, averaging 10.1 point and 6.3 rebounds in 19.4 minutes through 30 games.
After the Milwaukee Bucks drafted him 34th overall in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft, Gadczuric has had various stints with Milwaukee, Golden State, New Jersey (now Brooklyn), Toronto and New York. He averaged 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14.8 minutes through 527 NBA games.
The Lakers’ roster currently stands at 19 players, and it’s possible they will add another player before training camp starts Saturday. All NBA teams can hold a maximum of 15 players on their roster for the regular season.
Five things to watch in Lakers’ training camp
Kobe Bryant stresses fundamentals at basketball clinic in Abu Dhabi
Pau Gasol reports improvement in his knees
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kobe Bryant remains the top storyline heading into the Lakers’ training camp. Photo credit: Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
Very few times do the Lakers head into a season without the general public expecting an NBA championship. But with the Lakers beginning training camp today, plenty of intriguing storylines remain. Below are a look at the main ones.
1. How will Kobe Bryant’s recovery go? The Lakers haven’t offered a definitive timetable on when Bryant will return to the court after spending the past five months healing his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon. He’s still running on a weight-bearing treadmill and must progress toward basketball-related drills before taking the court.
Don’t expect Bryant to practice in training camp, or many of the Lakers’ eight preseason games. Knowing Bryant’s competitiviness, though, it’s possible he’ll return for the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers at Staples Center.