Dirk to Chris Kaman: Stay positive, keep working

It’s a pretty safe bet that Chris Kaman woke up in Portland this morning with what-might-have-been thoughts on his mind.

Kaman opted to sign a one-year, $8 million deal with the Mavericks instead of accepting a similar offer from the Trail Blazers this summer. With the Mavs visiting Portland for the first time this season, the big man is dealing with the frustration and disappointment of his demotion to the bench.

While Kaman made it clear he wasn’t happy after playing a season-low 11 minutes Sunday, he didn’t want to elaborate on the subject, figuring it was better to keep his thoughts to himself instead of venting his frustration publicly.

Coach Rick Carlisle and face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki, on the other hand, are practically publicly pleading with Kaman to be patient and professional.

“He’s just got to keep working and stay positive,” Nowitzki said. “Obviously, it’s natural to be a little frustrated with your minutes going down, but you’ve got to take that frustration out in the right direction and keep working, in practice go even harder. That’s the only way you can do it.

“Hopefully he’ll understand that. He’s been around … He’s just got to stick with it and keep working.”

Nowitzki noted that Carlisle’s rotations tend to be wildly unpredictable. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Kaman ends up starting again this season despite his defensive struggles, particularly when paired with Nowitzki.

Carlisle certainly isn’t ruling out that scenario, saying his starting center will be decided on a game-to-game basis for the time being.

“He’s a good player and we need him,” Carlisle said. “Look, we have good, honest conversations. Sometimes there’s a difference of opinion and that’s OK. Reasonable men have a right to disagree. I make it clear to him that he’s an important guy on this team and that we need him.”

After signing him this summer, the Mavs billed Kaman as the best offensive center Dallas has had during the Dirk era. That faint praise has been accurate, with Kaman averaging 12.4 points on 50.6 percent shooting in 23.7 minutes per game.

Kaman’s offensive ability could still be key to the Mavs – perhaps especially with the second unit – if he isn’t dealt before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.

“I still think sooner or later in big games, we’re going to need his scoring,” Nowitzki said. “His ability to put the ball on the floor for a big man and finish with both hands, sooner or later, we’re going to need some of that.”