Chris Kaman returns to practice, to play in season opener

In what marked his first appearance on the practice court in nine days, Lakers forward Chris Kaman encountered much more pleasant change of scenery.

Kaman practiced with the Lakers on Sunday and plans to appear in the team’s season opener Tuesday against the Clippers at a designated home game at Staples Center. As Lakers forward Pau Gasol noted, Kaman spent the previous week a far less pleasant place.

“He spent a lot of time in the bathroom,” Gasol said of Kaman.

So after missing three practices and three games, it’s understandable Kaman hardly cared for sharing much detail on his stomach virus stemmed from the Lakers’ recent nine-day trip to China.

“I’m not talking about that,” Kaman said. “I was sick.”

Now that Kaman says he “feels good,” he will have to handle a few other unsettled questions, though they’re far more pleasant than what he recently encountered.

Namely, how will Kaman’s absence affect his role?

“Whether I start or come off the bench, I think each game will be a different situation,” Kaman said. “Some teams go big and some teams go small. I have to continue to try to work with the guys and try different lineups in games and practice.”

Kaman’s five-game appearance entailed four starts with Pau Gasol, a huge reason why Kaman averaged 11.2 points on 51 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds in 21.8 minutes. But during Kaman’s absence, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni started Shawne Williams at power forward for the past two preseason games. It also appears D’Antoni will feature Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill at power forward, too.

Could Kaman play small ball?

“It was never my style of basketball,” Kaman said. “I remember palying against Phoenix back in the day with those smaller lineups. It was hard to guard those teams. We’ll see. It depends defensively who we’ll go against. Against DeAndre [Jordan] and Blake [Griffin], it’ll be hard to go small, but we’ll see.”

Still, it appears D’Antoni will start Shawne Williams after playing him in the past two preseason games during Kaman’s absence. Williams averaged 10 points on 33 percent shooting in 22 minutes during that stretch.

“Chris being out this last week favored Shawne getting that spot for now,” Gasol said. “We’ll see. I don’t think we’re set in stone in anything. Mike likes to change things up as we go along, especailly if something is not working or something else could work better.”

D’Antoni refused to divulge his starters.

“Put your neck out and write it, and then you’ll see if you’re right,” D’Antoni said with a smile.

But the move also fits D’Antoni’s preference for smaller and quicker lineups and showed his familiarity coaching Williams three years ago with the New York Knicks. It could also give Kaman some ammunition after still sounding slightly irritated Williams hurt his finger during the team’s trip to China after accidentally crashing his toboggan into him.

“I wish Shawne Williams knew how to use a brake,” said Kaman, who said his finger felt numb for three or four hours. “That might have been a little better trip for me.”

Now, Kaman’s centered on something else.

He’s looking to continue following D’Antoni’s philosophy in “move the ball and don’t hold the ball.” With D”Antoni describing Kaman as “winded a little bit,” Kaman also hopes to increase his conditioning.

“A couple more days, I’ll be good to go,” Kaman said. “I’m not really worried about that. This was fun.”

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