Pau Gasol, nearing return, would like to play alongside Chris Kaman

Pau Gasol, left, and Chris Kaman have not spent much time together on the court this season.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Pau Gasol may be back on the court on Tuesday night when the Lakers host the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center, after recovering from a scary bout of vertigo.

“We’ll see,” said Gasol after going through a full noncontact practice with the team Monday. “We’ll see how my body reacts when I get up tomorrow, after the exercise today. I would love to.”

Gasol, who missed the Lakers’ last three games, called the experience, “a nightmare.... Everybody that saw me, they felt bad because I was extremely pale. I was shivering.”


What does that mean for Chris Kaman, who dominated the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night in a surprise 115-99 Lakers’ victory? In 32 minutes, Kaman scored 28 points with 17 rebounds and six assists.

“After a monster game like last night, it’s hard to bench a guy like that, even not play him,” said Gasol of Kaman. “You’ve got to give him some credit and understand that he’s a valuable piece, one of our best pieces.”

Kaman has called the season frustrating, playing a much smaller role than he anticipated when he signed a one-year deal with the Lakers over the summer. In 38 appearances, Kaman is averaging 10.3 points in 18.6 minutes -- getting most of his opportunities when Gasol sat out 14 games with a variety of ailments.

Coach Mike D’Antoni rarely used Gasol and Kaman together.

“We played a few games in the preseason. I think it was pretty effective. I think people were pretty excited and we got good results from it, but we never really went back to it during the entire season,” said Gasol. “We’re not the coach. We don’t make those decisions.”

Kaman recently sounded off on the difficult season.

“I’m not at peace about it,” he said on Tuesday. “I’m not in charge. I don’t run this show. I don’t turn the wheels. I don’t make the clock work. It’s somebody else controlling me. I’m a puppet.”

So why doesn’t D’Antoni use Kaman regularly?

“When you do the math, if you’re going to play Pau 30 minutes, that leaves 18 minutes some place. You’d like to play Robert [Sacre], because he’s developing,” said D’Antoni. “Even if you play Robert 10 minutes, that leaves eight or nine for Chris. That’s tough.”

According to D’Antoni, Kaman would rather sit out than play a token, low-minute role.

“He said he didn’t want to play that,” said D’Antoni.

What about playing Kaman next to Gasol?

“Well, that’s going to knock Ryan [Kelly] out, or that’s going to knock Jordan Hill out,” said D’Antoni. “If Jordan Hill is not playing, then we’ll have the same discussion, ‘Why isn’t Jordan Hill playing?’”

“Then if Ryan isn’t playing, you’ve got to be nuts,” he continued. “I thought Ryan Kelly, last night had his best game ever.”

Kelly scored 17 points with five rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 29½ minutes on Sunday against the Suns.

D’Antoni acknowledged that once the Lakers fell out of the playoffs, the team’s priority shifted away from playing established veterans to developing the squad’s younger players.

“Without a doubt. Chris is an established guy that has a game that’s not going to improve. He’ll play well but he is who he is. He’ll be who he is next year and the year after. Pau is the same way,” he said. “Ryan and Robert can really use these minutes to really get to be better. You don’t know what their ceiling is. That’s kind of the focus and the thought about why they need to hit the floor.”

Injuries and poor play have led to a disappointing season for the Lakers. D’Antoni has struggled to keep the fans happy with the team’s record. He’s struggled to keep everyone on his roster happy with an ever-evolving rotation.

“You can look at it 1,000 different ways. It’s just the way the team is made up,” said D’Antoni. “There’s just not enough minutes to make everybody happy.”

Kaman may have been a difference-maker for the Lakers this season, had the team stayed healthy in contention. Instead, the franchise has been out of the playoff mix for a long time -- the minutes siphoned to developing players.

D’Antoni also noted that Xavier Henry (knee) hopes to play on Tuesday, but he’s not sure if he’ll be cleared.

Jordan Farmar (groin) went through practice but is still a week away, according to D’Antoni. Steve Nash remains day-to-day, which will be his status the remainder of the season.


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