Dallas Mavericks: Chris Kaman
The Mavericks head coach said before Tuesday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers that backup center Chris Kaman suffered a concussion in Monday's practice at the Rose Garden and is out indefinitely. Kaman is coming off a season-low 11 minutes in Sunday's 110-95 win over Phoenix after Carlisle turned to rookie Bernard James, the third center to start for Dallas in the last three games.
"It helps to have depth for sure," Carlisle said. "We need all those guys, but this is a hit for us. Chris has played very well for us this year, played really well against these guys last time. We'll miss him, and hopefully he'll be back soon."
Carlisle said Kaman, who's averaging 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, sustained the injury when he collided with another player during practice and hit his head on the floor. Kaman will have to pass league-mandated baseline tests before returning to action, Carlisle said.
"He'll be back when his symptoms abate," he said. "We don't know a timetable for it. We don't think it's that serious, but with these things you have to be very careful."
Carlisle didn't say who would start at center against Portland. James, Elton Brand and Brandan Wright will all presumably receive increased minutes. Carlisle said Shawn Marion could also see time at the five when they go to a smaller lineup.
"We have three guys in the mix. ... A big part of our team success is our balance," he said.
Kaman, who missed the final four preseason games and the first two regular-season contests with a calf strain, was sent into the game after just a few minutes of sitting on the bench in the first quarter. Part of the reason: The Mavericks were having rebounding problems, prompting Rick Carlisle to call a 20-second timeout less than 1:30 into the game.
But Kaman ended up going 8-for-9 from the field (he was 7-for-7 after the third quarter) for 16 points and added four rebounds. He played 20 minutes and was pleased he could contribute. He said he felt good except for the end of the third quarter because he went through the entire halftime and part of the third quarter without playing and got a bit stiff.
"Once it warmed up, it felt really good and it feels good now," said Kaman, moments after the game. "I don't want to jinx it, but I felt pretty good. I want to be patient and look to move forward at a steady pace."
Carlisle saw some signs that Kaman can help the club inside, especially on the boards.
"Chris has a knack for being in the right place," Carlisle said. "His teammates found him several times for easy ones. It's good to have that going when you're coming back from injury. It gets you back into the flow."
Kaman said he'd like to play as much as he can, but he understands that the staff is finding spots to ease him in after the injury and keep a rotation going, too.
"We have a lot of bigs on this team and coach is working a lot of guys in the rotation, trying to figure out who fits with who," Kaman said. "I think he's getting there. I think we've come a long ways since the preseason started. But myself, being out so long, I think he's trying to figure that out, where to put me in and what to do. He's a smart guy and knows his stuff, so just let that happen and be patient."
Kaman also missed Saturday's preseason game in Atlanta because of the calf. Carlisle did not say when he expects Kaman to return.
The 7-footer received treatment on the calf this weekend as the club works to keep him healthy. Kaman, 30, has had a history of injury issues, missing 152 games in the previous five seasons. He signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Mavericks this summer.
“Some of the sets we had is he would pass me the ball and I would shoot and score,” Brand cracked. “I would like to continue that tradition here.”
There’s some truth in that jest. Brand averaged 20-plus points per game in each of the four seasons he played with Kaman in Los Angeles, peaking at a career-best 24.7 points in 2005-06, when the Clippers won 47 games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
But it’s not like Kaman was setting Brand up much during those days. The big man never averaged more than 1.2 assists per game while he played with Brand.
Nevertheless, there is a comfort level with the Brand-Kaman pairing. Of course, they understand that neither of them will be the focal point of the Mavs’ frontcourt. They were brought to Dallas to complement Dirk Nowitzki.
“We’re used to having the best big defender guarding us. That’s no longer gonna happen,” Brand said. “They have to guard Dirk. We all know that he’s one of the greatest. So we’re looking forward to that, exploiting matchups and being in the low post, depending on where coach has us get the ball. But we expect to exploit those matchup problems out there with Dirk out there playing with us at different times.”
It will be a transition for Brand to get used to play with Nowitzki. That’s not the case for Kaman, who discovered he had German ancestry just in time to help Nowitzki go to the Olympics.
“I’ve established a pretty good relationship with Dirk,” Kaman said. “I feel like I’m comfortable playing with him, so that was kind of one of the things that helped bring me here to Dallas. And I’m just really looking forward to the opportunity, seeing what it brings in the NBA, as opposed to European players. And I played with Elton for four or five years in L.A., and we have a good relationship as well. So I’m in a pretty comfortable position here.”
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