Chris Kaman, the Dallas Mavericks' new starting center, has said there's no secret for success this season: Stay healthy. Hey, easier said than done. In fact, it's been a monumental challenge throughout Kaman's previous nine seasons.
So is he injury prone or just unlucky? I've never cared for the term injury-prone. Injuries happen, it's sports. If a guy turns an ankle a couple times, does that mean he's injury-prone? Maybe not, but if a repeated injury weakens that body part and makes it vulnerable to further injury, well, maybe injury-prone is the correct term.
I'm no doctor, but the 7-foot, 265-pound Kaman, who plays the game hard at both ends, could fall into the latter category.
If Mavs head athletic trainer Casey Smith is going to pay particularly close attention to any one area of Kaman's body, it will be the left ankle and foot region. Kaman's history with injuries there began in the 2004-05 season, and the list of issues is rather extensive.
Throughout Kaman's career, he could have played in a maximum 722 games (eight seasons at 82 games each and one at 66). He has played in 540, about 75 percent. From 2005 through 2007, good health allowed Kaman to play in 153 of a possible 164 games (93 percent). But since the start of the 2007-08 season, various injuries limited him to 242 of a possible 394 games (61 percent). That's a lot of pine time in a suit for your starting center.
The Mavs are thin up the middle with sturdy 6-9 Elton Brand and skinny 6-10 Brandan Wright backing up Kaman, so any missed time, and especially extended injury time, could spell big trouble and send the Mavs scrambling for available reinforcement.
Last season, Kaman played just 47 of 66 games, mostly because the New Orleans Hornets held him out of action while they tried to trade him. They simply didn't want to risk an injury that could kill a deal. When the Hornets failed to find a trade partner, Kaman returned and was solid, averaging 13.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, until he bruised his left tibia (shinbone) and missed the final five games of the season.
His strong 2007-08 campaign for the Clippers reached just 56 games in part due to a sprained left foot. After missing 26 of the final 43 games that season, Kaman suffered a sore left foot that was later diagnosed as a strained arch early in the 2008-09 season (as best he can tell, he said back at the time, he thinks he stepped on a cameraman -- unlucky). The stubborn injury sidelined Kaman from November until mid-February and he ultimately played in just 31 games. He managed 32 games in 2010-2011 due to a bone bruise and deltoid ligament sprain in his left ankle.
The one season among the past five that Kaman played the majority of the season -- 76 games in 2009-10 -- he was an All-Star, the commissioner's pick to replace injured Brandon Roy on the West squad. Kaman averaged a career-high 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds that season, compared to 12.8 points and 7.4 rebounds in his last two injury-plagued seasons.
Injury-prone or unlucky? It really doesn't matter. When Kaman is healthy, he is a productive and valuable player. When he's not, well, he's not.