Short-handed, the Los Angeles Lakers arrived in Utah.
Short-handed is an overused term to describe the Lakers this season, but Friday night is another case of excusing the repetition because one would find it hard to argue against the Lakers being short-handed. Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Steve Blake did not make the trip. Kobe Bryant is along for the ride, but he’s at least a month away from being back on the court.
In Gasol’s absence, Chris Kaman will start at center for the Lakers against the Jazz.
Some may be baffled by Kaman jumping from zero minutes against Miami on Wednesday to starting on Friday, but Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has been consistent in his explanation for the fluctuations in Kaman’s minutes. The coach believes veterans like Kaman need significant time on the floor to provide positive returns. With Gasol and Jordan Hill ahead of Kaman in the depth chart, the coach preferred to sit Kaman and occasionally use the high-energy Robert Sacre if a couple minutes were available due to foul trouble.
Why are the Lakers not starting Hill?
Well, D’Antoni has also consistently contended that he likes Hill’s energy as the anchor of the second unit. For a stretch, Hill played well enough to start, but the coach prefers to use Hill off the bench and play with a more athletic lineup. In order to not disrupt Hill’s role, D’Antoni opted to start Kaman with Sacre becoming an emergency reserve should Hill or Kaman get into foul trouble.
Also, Hill had a tendency to collect quick fouls as a starter.
In other team news, rookie Ryan Kelly suffered a mild ankle sprain, but he expects to play against the Jazz. The rookie has appeared in the last three games for the Lakers, and the coach expects to use him to help space the floor. Kelly played a career high 17 minutes against Miami on Christmas Day, and his defensive positioning stood out to the coaching staff.
With Shawne Williams holding his starting spot, Kelly should continue to see minutes at backup power forward. The rookie has a good shot and has shown range in limited time. Kelly is 5-11 from the field and 3-7 on three-point field goals for the season.