Chris Kaman got the start Tuesday night, playing alongside Pau Gasol in are rare move by Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni, who prefers a smaller lineup.
Before the game, Kaman defended D’Antoni.
“It’s a frustrating situation for a lot of people,” said Kaman. “For as much heat as [D’Antoni] takes, I don’t think he has had a fair shot at it either, with all the injuries.
“He’s not trying to hurt anybody. He’s not purposefully doing anything negatively. I think he’s just trying to do the best he can with what we’ve got. All the injuries, it’s been an interesting, tough, interesting year this year. I’ve never seen injuries like that before in my life.”
The Lakers, 25-48 before Tuesday’s game against Portland, have played most of the season without guards Kobe Bryant (Achilles’ tendon, knee) and Steve Nash (back, hamstring, knee), along with a long list of players missing games.
“People might not agree with the way he does things or his style of play,” Kaman said of D’Antoni. “We have to, as players, respect [his] position as the coach -- and that’s what he is. He’s our coach.”
“What lineups he decides and the way he decides to play is kind of based on what he believes are the right moves, so we have to respect that. It’s not always easy when you have to sit there for a while and not play.”
Kaman and Gasol started three games together in early November, a win in Houston over the Rockets, followed by losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves.
“We got smoked by Minnesota in the first quarter,” Kaman said of the Lakers, who allowed 47 points to the Wolves in the first 12 minutes that night. “Now looking back, we’ve kind of gotten smoked a couple of times [since].
“Whether or not it was the bigs, it’s so hard say. It’s so hard to try and dwell on the negative side of things,” said Kaman, who has expressed his frustration with playing time on multiple occasions. “We’re human too, just like everybody else.”
D’Antoni acknowledged Monday that he’s opted to play younger players like Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly over veterans, with the Lakers out of the playoff mix.
Kaman said he understands, even if he doesn’t enjoy the situation.
“I respected it when I was the one getting developed with the Clippers,” he said. "It’s hard to sit and watch, because I’m competitive. I hate just watching, knowing I can help.
“I think Rob [Sacre] has come a long way this year. He works hard, he really does, and so does Ryan. Those two guys are probably the two hardest workers other than Steve Nash.”
D’Antoni isn’t the only coach in the NBA who prefers floor spacing and speed over low-post power. Not many teams play multiple 7-footers.
“The game is changing. It’s evolving,” Kaman said. “It’s a lot faster than it used to be. It’s all about what’s the high-percentage play, which is the three-pointer now. Very few teams kind of slow down and play. They’re becoming a dying breed.”