Free-agent center Chris Kaman will be counted on to stay healthy and productive for Lakers this season.
By JOE McDONNELLFS West
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- With Dwight Howard now playing in Houston, it's imperative that the
Lakers get improved production from all their big men if they're thinking of even getting to the playoffs, let alone winning a game or two.
Pau Gasol (knees, foot) and Jordan Hill (hip surgery) had their seasons ruined by the various maladies. Combine that with Howard struggling to recover from April 2012 back surgery and Antawn Jamison, Metta World Peace and Earl Clark all attempting to find a spot in Mike D'Antoni's system, it's no wonder the Lakers were a bad basketball team in the first half of the season.
Howard, MWP, Jamison and Clark have all moved on to other teams, and the team is weaker in the frontcourt than they have been since the mid-1990s. Gasol and Hill are nearly healthy, but after that, there's really no forward and/or center that can be counted on to bolster the rebounding, defense and to score a few points.
Free-agent signee Chris Kaman, however, is the possible exception.
A 2009-2010 All-Star while playing with the Clippers, Kaman still has a nice mid-range game and some good moves down low. He can also rebound, holding a career average of eight per game. But like almost every veteran on the Lakers roster, Kaman's biggest challenge will be to stay on the court and be productive.
"And I know it," the seven-footer said before practice recently. "It's no secret that I've had some injuries in the past, but right now I feel great. And I know I have to play in order to help this team be competitive.
"I can't stand here and worry about it though. I just have to go out and play and stay focused on our goals as a team."
Something else Kaman must do is help open up the Lakers' inside game. He can't be unsure of running the pick and roll, then sulk about it as Howard did, and he has to prove he's still a 49-percent career shooter by hitting shots when Steve Nash or Steve Blake get the ball to him in the right spot.
Nash is very optimistic about Kaman's ability to contribute to the Lakers cause.
"I've always though he was one of the best big men in our league," said Nash, who is coming off a broken leg and injured back and hamstring. "He'll fit in with our offense nicely, but we also need him to take control underneath at times, and he's certainly capable of doing that. He's been an All-Star and he's got a lot of skills."
Kobe Bryant — working his way back from torn Achilles tendon surgery — echoes Nash's feelings about Kaman, saying that he "should be a really nice compliment to Pau's inside game. I think overall we're going to have a more athletic team, a more skilled team, than we did last year."
If Kaman and his new teammates call all get/stay healthy.