Mavs hope Chris Kaman sticks in starting lineup

Health willing -- and that’s a huge if -- Chris Kaman will be the Mavericks’ starting center for the rest of the season.

That was the plan from the second he signed a one-year, $8 million deal in Dallas, but Kaman’s body didn’t cooperate, as has often been the case throughout his career. Coach Rick Carlisle wanted to carefully manage Kaman’s minutes as the big man was coming off a strained right calf that sidelined him for three weeks, including the first two games of the regular season, so Kaman came off the bench.

Not that Kaman was ever a big fan of that plan. Suffice to say he feels like he’s back where he belongs after Carlisle put Kaman in the starting lineup for Wednesday’s win against the Wizards.

“For nine years, I’ve been starting,” Kaman said. “This is been what I’ve been doing. I know I’m not going to start for my whole career, but on this team, I think it’s a good position for me to be in. I felt pretty comfortable and pretty good.”

His numbers were great. Kaman had 23 points and eight rebounds, hitting 10 of 12 shots from the floor against the Wizards, although he seemed to run out of gas while Washington’s Kevin Seraphin was killing the Mavs during the Wizards’ fourth-quarter comeback. He had a similar line (22 points, eight rebounds 8-15 FG) in his only other start, when Elton Brand left the team for the win over Toronto to attend the birth of his daughter.

It’s not a coincidence that Brand put up his first double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds, eight offensive) as a Maverick the first time he was joined by ex-Clippers teammate Kaman in the Mavs’ starting lineup. As Brand pointed out, it’s a lot easier for him to crash the offensive glass with Kaman in the game because opposing big men must guard the skilled 7-footer instead of him.

“You see what kind of player he is,” Brand said. “He impacts the game in many ways. It’s good to have him back.”

The Mavs have to count on Kaman, who missed 152 games over the previous five seasons due to a variety of ailments, to stay healthy.

Then again, that was the big question mark with Tyson Chandler when the Mavs traded for him after he had two injury-ravaged seasons. Chandler benefited greatly from the care of Casey Smith, the athletic trainer for the Mavs and Team USA. The hope is that Kaman will, too.

If so, the Mavs will get more offensive production from the center position than ever.