With Pau Gasol still unable to play after suffering vertigo and dizziness, the Los Angeles Lakers looked to seldom-used veteran Chris Kaman against the Phoenix Suns, and the frustrated center came through to lead the Lakers to a 115-99 win at Staples Center on Sunday night.
For Kaman, Sunday night at Staples Center was his fourth start in a row, but the 31-year-old came out especially active with a point to prove. Throughout the season, Kaman has remained a consummate professional in a difficult situation where his play does not appear to have a direct impact on his playing time.
In Friday’s blowout loss to Minnesota, Kaman started the game before being pulled less than six minutes into the contest. He never returned to the game, and Kaman voiced frustrations after the contest.
Unfortunately for the Suns, Kaman had a point to prove on Sunday.
The former NBA All-Star and Los Angeles Clipper proved his pedigree from the opening tip with 10 points and eight rebounds in the first quarter. Kaman’s instant offense led the Lakers to an early 26-15 lead after 12 minutes.
In the second period, the often-forgotten big man continued releasing his frustrations onto the Suns. By halftime, Kaman’s 18 points, 10 rebounds and three assists resembled a final stat line for a respectable starting center, not the last guy on the bench being asked to temporarily stand in.
In his 11th year in the league, Kaman appeared focused from the onset and continued his strong play into the second half. After three quarters, Kaman’s count was up to 24 points on 11/16 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds and four assists.
As the Lakers opened up leads as large as 26 points, Kaman obviously had help. Jodie Meeks, who converted on four conventional three-point plays (often called "And 1"), finished with 22 points. Also, youngsters Kent Bazemore and Ryan Kelly played well. Bazemore continues to showcase his passing and shooting ability with 12 points and six assists on the night. Kelly finished with 17 points, including a couple big buckets late in the game. When it came to passing, however, Kendall Marshall set the example with a game-high 11 assists to go along with his 13 points.
However, the story of the night was Kaman. Regularly this season, Kaman was listed as available and found himself the odd man out. On Sunday, the Lakers had no choice but to play the well-traveled big man, and Kaman made a point to show his coach that sitting him for the majority of the season had been the wrong decision.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Kaman finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. He was named the player of the game and even received an early substitution and deserved applause from the home crowd.
After a performance like that, one cannot help but wonder how the Lakers would have looked if Kaman have been used more often.