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A Quick Clarification on Kaman

When I read some of the comments from my last post, I realized that I mistakenly implied that I believed there would be difficulties in camp over who the starting center would be.  I closed the post stating "So if you're looking for a controversy for the start of camp, that's probably the one," so yeah, I guess no one could be blamed for thinking this would be controversial, since, um, that's what I said.

So I'm going to backtrack a little here.  The simple fact is, sometimes it's tricky finding an ending to a post.  Especially one of these, "How I spent my summer vacation" posts.  You list a bunch of stuff, and then you are done listing things, but I'm a bit too much of a perfectionist to just stop writing.  So I want to have some sort of kicker at the end, give everyone something to think about.  My intent with this line, honestly, was something along the lines of "The Clippers appear to be so harmonious right now that bloggers like me are going to have to create controversies out of thin air."  The line didn't work.  That's my bad.

Here's a more complete picture of the situation from what I saw and heard yesterday, and you can use your own imaginations from there.

  • Coach said that Camby and Kaman were their starting bigs heading into camp. 
  • No one said that a starting job was waiting for Blake Griffin, but no one has to say that.  We know it's going to happen, and hopefully sooner rather than later.
  • Kaman is not stupid, and as I mentioned tends to be more honest with his comments than most professional athletes.  He said what I'm sure others are thinking - that he doesn't consider himself a bench player, and that he'd prefer to start.
  • KAMAN WENT ON TO SAY that if coach asked him to come off the bench he would do it.  So in fact, first he said what he really thought, and then he went on to say the 'right' thing from the team perspective. 

Back to CMDsr for a moment: when he was talking about the competition for starting positions in camp, he went out of his way to point out that players that come off the bench aren't necessarily 'worse' than the players that start.  He referenced the patron saint of non-starters, Manu Ginobili, and said that sometimes you bring a guy off the bench because you believe he can have the greatest impact in that role.

This has been my position on Al Thornton for a while now.  The more I think about it, the more I think that he could be an ideal sixth man, and that Rasual Butler is likely a better fit with the first unit on this team.  Butler can spread the floor for Kaman and Griffin, he can drill the corner three if the defense doubles the post, and he's a better on ball defender than Thornton.  Thornton on the other hand would have more opportunities to take the ball and get his own shot playing with the second unit, which is, let's face it, something he does very well.

In the end, I believe those seven players (Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Rasual Butler, Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby) will all get 'starter' minutes when healthy.  I would expect Thornton and Butler to play similar minutes to one another (with Al hopefully being significantly below his average of 37.4 last season which was too high by necessity).  I believe Kaman and Camby will play something similar to their career minutes per game averages (29 and 31 respectively).  Let's face it - two seasons ago when Kaman played 37 minutes per game, it was way too much, and it took a toll.  Realistically, if LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki played 37.7 minutes per game last season, neither Al Thornton nor Chris Kaman has any business in the 37 range.

Will everyone be happy if they're getting the minutes?  Not necessarily, but we'll have to wait and see.  I don't think you can completely dismiss the players' psyches in these decisions.  That's certainly one nuance of the previous Ross-Maggette situation that MDsr seemed to miss.  The coach wants to make the basketball decision that he feels is right for the team, but he can't do it in a vacuum - there are egos involved here and it's pretty clear at this point that in solving one problem in 2006 (the problem of which five players should start to give my team the best chance to win), MDsr created a different problem (the problem of my best per minute scorer is sulky and unhappy). 

For what it's worth, on the Camby-Kaman question, I think it's an easier 'sell' to bring Camby off the bench.  He's 35 years old, entering his 14th season in the league, with an infamous legacy of injury.  It seems pretty straightforward to sit him down and say, "Hey Marcus, I want to save you for the right situations, hopefully in the process save you for the playoffs; you'll get significant minutes, but I want you coming off the bench so we can more easily pick our spots."  That's a plan I can sell to Marcus Camby.  Kaman would be a tougher sell.  Should that matter?  I suppose it's a matter of opinion as to whether it should matter, but I believe it does matter.

So getting back to my original point, I didn't sense at Media Day yesterday that there was any more controversy here than we already knew.  The team has the high class problem of having seven guys who were full time NBA starters last season (full time when they weren't hurt, that is) plus the first overall pick in the draft.  So if everyone is healthy, they can't all start.  The potential is there for someone to be coming off the bench and not be totally OK with that, a situation about which Chris Kaman was honest with reporters.  That's OK. 

In the end, what matters is how players react when it happens.  You can say the right things, but do the wrong things and vice versa.  We'll just have to wait and see what happens.