Thoughts on Chris Kaman's "Me over Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol for All-Star reserve" thoughts

January, 22, 2010
1/22/10
4:21
PM PT

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Should Chris Kaman get an invite to Dallas?



In particular, as a center. And really in particular, over Pau Gasol.

On the heels of the announcement for the All-Star starters, Chris Kaman, omitted from the ballot altogether in what ultimately proved a glaring mistake, was asked if he'd be upset if El Spaniard, currently fourth among Western Conference forwards, was named a reserve via the "slide over to center" treatment. As NBA Fanhouse's Chris Tomasson reports, nary a bush was beaten around with Kaman's response:
    "I don't think Gasol should be in it at all,'' Kaman said when asked if he would be disappointed if Gasol, who starts at power forward for the Lakers, is slid over to be the backup center when West coaches vote for All-Star reserves. "He's only played like 20 games (he played Thursday in his 25th out of 42 Lakers games) this year. I think there should be a number of games you should play. I think you should have to play like 80 percent of the games.

    "It shouldn't be 50 percent (of games a player has logged) over a guy who plays 90 percent and who has better numbers. Not just me. Zach Randolph, a power forward, he has better numbers (than Gasol). But he's not on the Lakers.''


But even while praising former teammate Z.Bo, Kaman still nixed the idea of playing Memphis' starting power forward --no doubt enjoying a season worthy of inclusion, despite it blowing my mind to type that-- in the middle. ("I don't think he's a center," said Kaman succinctly.) As for comparisons to Andrew Bynum, the Clipper pivot simply thinks he's enjoying the better season. It would be easier to live with Drew sneaking past him, since he's has both played nearly every game and would be selected position-appropriately. But the snub still would chap Kaman's hide, particularly since he feels Drew would be benefiting to a sizable degree from being a Laker:
    "The Clippers are 18-23 and the Lakers are 32-10. But Kaman doesn't believe that should help the All-Star chances of Gasol and Bynum."Some people probably go with the records,'' Kaman said. "The Lakers are a hell of a team. Nothing you can really do about it. If I get in, I get in. But I think (my) numbers are better. But my team hasn't won as many games.

    "But we also don't have Kobe Bryant on my team either. Put Kobe Bryant on my team or LeBron James on my team -- that's nothing against the guys on my team now -- but, if we had a superstar, it changes the complexion.''

(On a related note, those who've ever wondered if Kaman considers B.Diddy a "superstar" are free to ponder a new topic.)

Pretty direct words from Kaman, never one afraid to speak without a filter (or film himself blowing up crap). It's important to note, he never declared himself a "better player" than Gasol or Bynum, a claim very difficult to make in regards to the former and, while more legitimately debatable with the latter, still steeped in "huevos." Rather, The former Caveman said he's more worthy than either guy this particular season, and in the case of Pau, because of specific criteria. There are some, particularly Lakers fans, who may think the opinion comes off like sour grapes worse than "Sour Grapes." But objectively speaking, even if you feel such thoughts are better left in the melon than vocalized, does Kaman nonetheless have a legit gripe?

As much as my Laker-lovin' self hates to admit it, yeah...

I'll make the simpler argument first. Kaman should beat out Bynum because he should beat out Bynum. Period. The Clipper five leads all W.C. centers in scoring (and attempts, but with a reasonable 50.5 percent from the field, this doesn't feel like a sticking point), is ninth in rebounds (despite often playing alongside leader/vaccuum Marcus Camby) and blocks (despite, again, the presence of Camby). For his part, Bynum has Kaman barely edged in swats 1.65-1.37, but also picks up sightly more fouls per stuff (.55) than Kaman (.47).

From there, the points and rebounds are reasonably close over a respective 48 and 40 minutes played. But Kaman's splits reveal a more consistent first half, where Drew really suffered through one lulu of a December where his production and attitude alongside Gasol were constantly scrutinized and people were wondering if the Lakers would be better off with Chris Bosh. Save the rarest and typically iconic among big names (Iverson, Kobe at times, etc.), those experiencing issues blending with their own team rarely get selected for the All-Star team. The kid got off to a fantastic start, has been playing pretty well in January (the last two games aside), and certainly is worthy of being debated. But as a body of work, I think Kaman's beats his.

As for Gasol, it's a little trickier, in that Pau certainly plays a fair amount of center and, as my ESPN colleague Marc Stein notes while choosing his subs, coaches "are invited by the league to vote for reserves at the position 'most advantageous for the All-Star team... not necessarily the one he plays most often during the season.' " We also live in an age where Tim Duncan is accepted as a "forward," Amar'e Stoudemire a "center" and both are All-Star starters as such. And lest we forget, Gasol has been pretty damn good when healthy. The Lakers' record when he's suited up (21-4) vs. in a suit (11-6) is strikingly different, one reason why Stein (among others, if I had to guess) thinks the production outweighs the absences.

I get where he's coming from, but I still can't wrap my head around taking a spot away from arguably the conference's best true center to an out-of-position exception for a guy out nearly half the season. If you still think Gasol truly should be there, fair enough, but at least ace out another forward or "wild card" guard. Someone (beyond Deron Williams) inevitably gets the shaft every year. But don't bend the rules-- even legally-- in this case.

(As for Kaman's assertion that team record carries weight, I've never been lucky enough to watch an NBA coach select reserves, so I can't say with 100 percent certainty players on better teams are treated with more gravity and respect. But considering the similar and well established mentality when it comes to MVP voting, along with the lack of coaches I've personally heard challenge that viewpoint, it's certainly not inconceivable.)

Look, I realize, in the end, this is one big name/popularity contest. There are bigger injustices in the world (or even in this game... A.I.). Honestly, I wouldn't lose sleep if Jerome James was tabbed. (You can laugh yourself to sleep, right?) But for many players (including all three principles in question), this is a coveted honor. If you actually care about the game being treated as more than a means to creating spectacle and ratings, like it actually means something, I do think discretion in a case like Kaman's should be exercised.

You've now heard my take. Lemme get yours.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.2
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3