DALLAS – Chris Kaman, the man the Mavs gave an $8 million salary to be the starting center, is healthy again.
So how does Kaman fit into the Mavs’ rotation?
“I have zero idea,” Kaman said after playing eight quality minutes in Sunday’s loss to the Lakers, his return after missing 10 games due to a concussion.
That’s not a complaint from Kaman. It’s just an honest answer.
His role could change on a game-to-game basis. It's up to Kaman, who played two-on-two after Sunday's game, to be ready.
“There’s no set formula,” coach Rick Carlisle said before Sunday’s game.
This much is certain: Kaman isn’t the starter. He lost that job before suffering the concussion during the Mavs’ Jan. 28 practice, coming off the bench and playing what had been season lows of 12 and 11 minutes in the previous two games.
Carlisle wants to stick with rookie Bernard James as a low-minute, high-energy starter, although the Lakers game seemed a little too big for the second-round rookie, who got bullied by Dwight Howard for the first 3:06 and sat on the bench the rest of the afternoon. Elton Brand, the Mavs’ best all-around big man despite being generously listed at 6-foot-9, gets the bulk of the center minutes.
That leaves Kaman, the 7-footer labeled the best offensive big man in Mavs’ history when he signed his one-year deal, and 6-foot-10 pogo stick Brandan Wright with uncertain roles.
Kaman understands the reasoning for the center rotation changing so much. He gets that he’s struggled defensively for much of the season, and he sees that starting James makes it easier for the Mavs to get Dirk Nowitzki going earlier, with Kaman or Brand not on the floor to get shots.
That doesn’t make it easy for a 10-year veteran who is accustomed to starting and will be a free agent again this summer.
“It’s tough,” said Kaman, who is averaging 12.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this season. “I’m not going to lie to anybody, there’s pressure. When you’re in a one-year situation, if people don’t tell you there’s pressure, they’re lying to you. It’s not easy. We’re human, just like everybody else. And we’re trying to go out there and play perfect basketball. Obviously, that’s not how it goes, ever. So for us, candidly, it’s not easy.
“When your playing time goes down, you’re questioning all the stuff in your head. The best thing to do is to not think about it and keep working out, keep working hard and get in there and try to play hard. I can’t control how much I get played or don’t get played. That’s out of my hands.”