- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN ANTONIO – Mavericks big man Chris Kaman is disgruntled but doesn’t want to be a distraction.
With all due respect to coach Rick Carlisle, Kaman is rather perturbed about being benched a little more than two minutes into Tuesday’s win in Milwaukee. Kaman publicly expressed his displeasure with that coach’s decision after the game and didn’t back off after Thursday’s shootaround at the AT&T Center.
However, Kaman is choosing his words carefully, not wanting to rock the boat too much with the Mavs in the midst of a season-best-matching four-game winning streak.
“Coach put me in a tough position, I feel like, with that decision because then I’ve got to deal with this kind of stuff (questions from media), you know what I’m saying?” Kaman said. “And he apologized and all that stuff, but the damage was done already. It’s a tough position to be in, but we still have 19 games left and it’s really important.
“We’re right at the edge of getting back to .500. We’ve got a tough schedule coming up and it’s important that we stay focused. I don’t want to cause a controversy where there’s a big issue. It’s not really my style. I don’t want to be one of those guys where people are like, ‘Oh, he just runs his mouth.’ That’s not my style. I’ve really never done that.”
Carlisle addressed the issue with Kaman at halftime in Milwaukee, essentially apologizing for the decision to start Kaman. Carlisle didn’t think Kaman matched up well with the Bucks’ quick big men, especially Larry Sanders.
“He’s a prideful guy,” Carlisle said. “And no player is going to want to be in that situation. There’s nothing I can do but take responsibility and move forward. I got to do better. And I have a responsibility to do what’s best for the team.”
Brandan Wright, the Mavs’ most athletic center, played the majority of the big man minutes against the Bucks. Carlisle could easily justify the decision by pointing to the performance of Wright, who had nine points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 33 minutes. Wright’s plus-minus (plus-17) was the Mavs’ best in that game.
That doesn’t make it any easier for Kaman to swallow his pride. The 10-year veteran, who is averaging 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in a career-low 22.3 minutes per game, admitted that it was a blow to his confidence.
“More than anything, it hurts you mentally about your game,” said Kaman, who sat out entire games in recent wins over the Bucks and Rockets due to coach’s decisions. “Like, am I that bad that I play two minutes against a .500 level team in the eighth spot in the East? I didn’t think the bigs were that quick, but that’s not for me to make that decision.”
When Kaman decided to sign a one-year, $8 million deal with Dallas, he expected to be the Mavs’ starting center. He’s been caught off guard by Carlisle tinkering with the lineup so much. The starting center is a game-by-game decision, with Kaman likely starting against the Spurs' more traditional bigs.
“I try to be as professional as I can with the situation, but it’s definitely not what I anticipated,” Kaman said. “When I decided to come here this summer, I thought it’d be a greater opportunity for me.
“Especially coming into a one-year deal, it’s a tough situation. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you it isn’t. It’s stressful.”