That might have been a money game for Chris Kaman.
Kaman opted to sign a one-year, $8 million deal with the Mavericks last summer instead of taking a similar offer from the Trail Blazers. Considering how he’s bounced between the starting lineup and the end of the bench, it’s hard to believe that Kaman will return to Dallas next season. Portland could be interested again in signing him, however.
Kaman certainly made a strong case Sunday night that he can help the Blazers, who will again have a hole to fill at center with J.J. Hickson entering free agency.
Not to damn his 26-point, 11-rebound, two-block outing with faint praise, but this was arguably the best performance by Kaman during this frustrating season.
Kaman’s season-high point total matching the highest scoring game by a Mavs center during the Dirk Nowitzki era. He also recorded his third double-double of the season – and first since Jan. 2 – despite playing only 25 minutes.
“Kaman was great from the beginning of the game,” coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. “He hit his first shot, was really active on defense, rebounded like crazy and just gave us a terrific all-around game.”
This season, however, has been far from great for the 10-year veteran 7-footer. Billed as the best offensive big man the Mavs have had to pair with Nowitzki, his former teammate on the German Olympic team, Kaman expected to be the full-time starter when he decided to come to Dallas. However, in large part due to his defensive struggles, Kaman has been demoted to part of a starting center committee, playing less than 10 minutes in eight games last month.
Carlisle went back to Kaman as the starter for this road trip, and the former All-Star responded by averaging 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor in 22.8 minutes per game.
Kaman has been honest about his frustrations, mentioning several times that he feels pressure as he prepares to be a free agent again. But he’s remained professional about his situation and proved during this trip that he stayed ready to play even while riding the pine.
“They’re paying me money to play basketball,” Kaman said on the Mavs’ television broadcast. “That’s my job. … I’m here to do a job and be a professional, and that’s what I try to do.”
Kaman might be on Portland’s payroll next season. His performance Sunday night at the Rose Garden probably reminded the Blazers’ brass why they were interested in the big man last summer.
A few more notes from the Mavs’ win that salvaged a split on the road trip:
1. Trix’s trip: Shawn Marion accomplished something on this trip he hadn’t done since March 2011: He scored 20-plus points in two straight games.
Marion starred in the Mavs’ two wins to end the trip. He lit up the Kings for 25 points and 12 rebounds and followed that with a 20-point, seven-rebound performance in Portland. Marion was 20-of-31 from the floor in those two games.
“Marion’s on a roll here,” Carlisle said. “He’s scoring, rebounding and making plays. He did a terrific job again tonight.”
2. Dirk’s difficulties: This was a tough trip for Dirk Nowitzki, who was as hot as he’d been all season when the Mavs left for their week away, having just torched the Bulls for a season-high 35 points on 14-of-17 shooting to carry the Mavs to a miraculous comeback win.
Nowitzki averaged only 11.5 points on 40.9 percent shooting on the four-game trip. His production in the fourth quarters on this trip was particularly terrible: a total of one point, coming on a free throw well after the Mavs’ fate had been decided in their blowout loss to the Lakers.
Nowitzki didn’t play in the fourth quarter Sunday due to a foot/ankle injury, which he suffered earlier in the game and the Mavs consider minor.
3. Within a whisker of .500: For the third time in the last two weeks, the Mavs will have a chance to get back to .500 and earn the right to finally shave.
“Just win the next game,” Carter said. “That’s all I care about. If it entails having an even record, fine. I’m not going to talk about it. Just win the next game.”