Dallas Mavericks: Fresh Fit

DALLAS – Big man Chris Kaman was concerned he’d be out of sync offensively after a three-week layoff due to a strained right calf.

Kaman couldn’t have looked much more comfortable than he has in his first two games with the Mavericks.

Kaman shot 8-of-10 from the floor in Monday’s win over Portland and dropped his shooting percentage. He’s sitting at a pretty .842 clip from the floor after scoring 32 points on 16-of-19 shooting off the bench in a couple of blowout wins.

The 7-footer, who was anointed the best offensive center in Mavs history as soon as the ink was dry on his one-year, $8 million deal, is scoring in a variety of ways. He’s knocking down midrange jumpers, getting buckets from the block and even taking opposing big men off the dribble.

That versatility makes Kaman a fine fit in coach Rick Carlisle’s flow offense, in which set plays are called as infrequently as possible.

“I’m not going to have those kinds of games every night,” Kaman said. “You can’t expect someone to shoot 8-of-10 every night. But be patient, be smart, take the right shots for the team -- I want to do that. That’s something that’s important to me. I’ll continue to focus on that and see where it gets me.”

At some point, if Kaman can stay healthy, it’ll get him in the Mavs’ starting lineup. Kaman isn’t complaining, but he’s clearly not too keen on coming off the bench.

“I don’t even know what’s going on really with that right now,” Kaman said. “I’ve just been playing when I get my chances and going in there and giving my effort.”

Carlisle’s primary reasoning for keeping Kaman out of the starting lineup is because it makes it easier to limit the big man’s minutes, a priority with Kaman working his way into shape again after the injury-induced layoff.

The fact that Kaman, who believes his rebounding will improve as his conditioning gets better, has created major mismatch problems off the bench is a bonus.

“He’s come in and played against second-unit guys,” Carlisle said. “Teams haven’t game-planned for him a whole lot and we’ve been moving the ball a lot. We’re not really running plays for him. He’s another guy that has a good feel for the game and works himself into good spots on the court.”

As Kaman mentioned, he can’t be expected to keep up this extreme efficiency. But Kaman’s size, shooting touch and versatility gives the Dallas offense a weapon it’s never had before.

That’s why it’s so important to keep the durability-challenged Kaman as healthy as possible. And that’s why Carlisle is exercising caution with Kaman’s minutes now despite the center’s spectacular offensive production.

“I’m still a little sore after games and in the morning,” Kaman said. “Take my time and be patient. I don’t want to overdo it and stick myself where I was two weeks before. It’s important to do the smart thing and the right thing and play when I can.”

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2