Portland Trail Blazers Make Key Addition with Chris Kaman

It might seem strange to think of Chris Kaman as the player who could push a team over the hump and get them into the realm of true title contenders, at least at this stage of his NBA career. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what he’s setting up to do for the Portland Trail Blazers

Confused about how a 32-year-old center coming off a lackluster season filled with injuries and personality clashes can have that type of impact?

You wont be for long. 

According to Sam Amick of USA Today, the veteran big man signed on board with the Rip City squad for a two-year deal worth—at most—just under $10 million: 

Chris Kaman agreed Thursday night to a two-year contract with the Blazers, a person with knowledge of the deal told USA TODAY Sports. The deal is worth $9.8 million total but only $1 million is guaranteed in the second year. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because NBA contracts cannot be signed until July 10.

Is Kaman worth nearly $5 million per year?

That’s iffy, but it’s by no means a significant overpay. In a vacuum, the 32-year-old might not be able to command more than the veteran minimum, but the NBA doesn’t operate in such a context-free environment.

As you’ll see, this move has far-reaching ramifications, all of which are positive for Portland. Plus, the ability to save so much money in the second year is a nice insurance policy in case his decline wasn‘t solely because of misuse and a lacking of playing time under Mike D’Antoni.  During the 2013-14 season, the hunting aficionado spent far too much time on the bench, possibly daydreaming of the next time he could get out the crossbow.

Playing only 18.9 minutes during the average contest, Kaman posted 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the field. He was hampered by injuries throughout the campaign, and his lumbering playing style didn’t exactly mesh with D’Antoni‘s up-tempo whims. 

The two’s feud wasn‘t exactly a secret: 

In February, Kaman left no doubt about how he felt while speaking with InsideSocial.com’s Mark Medina

Everybody tries to be positive. I want to be professional about it. It wasn’t what I anticipated coming here. Obviously I thought I had an opportunity to play more minutes with Pau. But history shows with Coach D’Antoni’s style, it’s a small guy’s game, I suffer as a result of that. It is what it is. I can’t argue what he’s saying. I have to trust the position of head coach. It’s obviously frustrating at times, especially when you’re losing a lot like that and we had a stretch where it’s tough to sit there and watch knowing I could help or provide an effort to get a change of momentum.

Is it any wonder he’s now signing with a team he thinks is a much better fit for his talents? 

It shouldn’t be, especially after that was the first thing he brought up once his two-year agreement with a new squad became public knowledge: 

And Kaman wasn‘t the only one excited about his upcoming arrival in Portland, one that will become official after contracts can be legitimately signed on July 10. It’s always good to get Damian Lillard on board as well: 

Even if Kaman can produce identical numbers to the ones he posted last year, he’ll be worth the deal for the Blazers. They may have a number of frontcourt options on the pine, but none are established like Kaman is, and depth is sorely needed on the Rip City bench. 

That’s what makes this such a scary signing for the rest of the Western Conference. 

Portland was often held back by its lack of a contributing bench, forcing the starters into major minutes (luckily, they stayed largely healthy) and wearing them out during the regular season. If Terry Stotts is able to play his second unit without fear of giving up a lead in just the blink of an eye, it’ll keep everyone much fresher for the inevitable postseason run. 

After all, the starting five—Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez—is staying together, and it’s only going to get stronger as Lillard continues improving. Given that this is still a young squad, there’s no reason to expect this team to trend anywhere but in a positive direction.

The bench is where the upgrades are needed, and landing a quality veteran like Kaman, one who’s presumably chasing a shot at a championship, indicates that more small-scale signings are coming.

Portland with depth is scary. Terrifying, even. 

“While Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was coming to terms with just how few of his reserves seemed at all playable in this series, Popovich was drawing a 10-point, seven-rebound performance from Aron Baynesa bottom-of-the-barrel center who logged all of six minutes in the first round,” wrote Sports Illustrated Rob Mahoney after the San Antonio Spurs handed Portland a 116-92 loss to open the second-round playoff series. 

If that scenario changes, everything follows suit. After all, the numbers last year just weren’t pretty. 

According to Hoopsstats.com, the Blazers bench finished No. 27 in defensive efficiency, better than only the Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons. Things weren’t much better on offense, as the efficiency ranked dead last, admittedly by a small margin.

Yay for silver linings?

It’s the defense where Kaman can help most. Even during his down season with L.A., the Lakers allowed 5.2 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the court, per Basketball-Reference.com. Over the course of his career, his team’s defense has improved by two points over the same span of possessions when he plays, and it’s been better with him on the court in seven of his past 10 seasons.

Additionally, things were made worse for Rip City by the lack of playing time the non-starters received. It’s not as though the inefficiency was created by too many minutes on the court, falling in line with the typical inverse correlation between volume and effectiveness. The bench players averaged a league-low 13.7 minutes per contest. 

Kaman alone may top that mark in an effort to keep Aldridge and Lopez as healthy as possible throughout the year. And as the legitimacy of the second unit grows, more future free agents should flock to one of the true up-and-coming teams in the vaunted West. 

The bench, in order of money owed in 2014-15, is now comprised of Kaman, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, Joel Freeland, C.J. McCollum, Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver, Allen Crabbe and Will Barton. 

Given the youth of that group, it’s safe to bet on internal improvement, but the Blazers aren’t going to be done making small-scale signings like Kaman. Remember, Damian Lillard recently texted some names he’d like to see Portland chase to CSNNW.com’s Chris Haynes, “Yeah…Mo Williams,” and, “Channing Frye, Vince Carter, Spencer Hawes, Trevor Ariza.”

Some of those are reaches, but it’s not entirely inconceivable to see some of those veterans—or others of a similar caliber—taking a chance on being a part of something special. Well, it’s more inconceivable now that Kaman has absorbed what was likely the team’s mid-level exception, but minimum contracts still exist, and the allure of a deep playoff run can often trump monetary impact late in a player’s career.

Additionally, the recent signings by other franchises are only driving up prices, which makes this deal more palatable. Dwight Jaynes explains for CSNNW.com: 

Faced with the very real prospect of being priced out of a chance to sign Spencer Hawes or Channing Frye for the mid-level exception, the Trail Blazers got an agreement with Chris Kaman Thursday night at around five million bucks for the upcoming season.

Yes, that’s the very definition of what’s called overpaying for a player. Kaman’s contract last season for the Lakers was for just $3.18 million and he did nothing during that year to prove he deserved a raise this season, playing in just 39 games.

That said, Trail Blazer GM Neil Olshey probably had few choices considering what Portland had available to spend in the free-agent frenzy going on this summer. Olshey had to have depth in the frontcourt and he at least grabbed a player capable of being a solid contributor when healthy. Kaman is a smart big man who can score and protect the rim. He’s had several solid NBA seasons and is very underrated defensively.

But there’s more to the Kaman signing than his personal contributions and the assumption that more veterans are going to be following in his large footsteps. By bringing his talents to Stotts‘ pine, he’s making young talents like Robinson and Leonard increasingly expendable.

Trade bait, anyone? 

Bleacher Report’s Stephen Babb predicted as much even before the former Laker was brought aboard: 

There are plenty of teams out there who’d love to get their hands on some of Portland’s young assets. It’s unlikely the Trail Blazers will break up their starting lineup, but you could easily see a rebuilding team seeking a package built around guys like McCollum and Leonard. Those are precisely the kind of prospects for whom a bad team will happily wait.

Trading partners might include teams like the Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks. Even emergent, young teams like the Charlotte Hornets might be in the market for some new blood.

Could Portland gets its hands on a more proven veteran like Thaddeus Young or O.J. Mayo? There’s no reason to rule the possibility out, and there’s no doubt an acquisition of that magnitude would give Portland a starting-caliber sixth man.

Well, now things are getting really interesting. 

If Portland is able to land not just a bench contributor, but a Sixth Man of the Year candidate without breaking the bank and parting ways with one of its impressive starters, it becomes an even more serious threat to exact revenge upon Gregg Popovich and the Spurs during the 2015 postseason. 

In a best-case scenario, this is exactly what happens. General manager Neil Olshey swaps some of the young players with upside for a more established talent who can come off the bench as a super sub, and Portland gets a lot more dangerous. 

But with Kaman on the board, providing post moves, mid-range shooting and underrated defense from the center position, the worst-case scenario is so much better. 

Even if the Blazers aren’t able to do anything more than fill up their active roster with nondescript players, their bench is better for adding Kaman, who can serve as a solid insurance policy for a certain Stanford product.

And that had to be the No. 1 goal of the offseason. Not finding insurance for Lopez, but adding depth in general.

Mission accomplished, but not necessarily completed. 

 

Like the Kaman signing? Love it? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter and Facebook 

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Chris Kaman to Trail Blazers: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

After a one-year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, veteran big man Chris Kaman has reportedly come to terms with the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports broke the news of Kaman’s agreement with Portland:

USA Today‘s Sam Amick shared further financial details:

 

Heading into his 12th year as a pro at the age of 32, Kaman has become a bit of a journeyman underneath the rim in a backup capacity. He spent the first eight up-and-down years of his career with the Los Angeles Clippers before one-year stints with New Orleans and Dallas.

Last year’s struggles with the Lakers resulted not only in one of the worst seasons in franchise history, but also arguably the worst season of Kaman’s career, as he appeared in just 39 games and was hardly used down the stretch. The result was averages of 10.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.

Kaman grossly misjudged how then-Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni would utilize him before signing with the Lakers last offseason, as Mike Trudell of the Lakers’ official website noted:

A strange signing in the wake of Dwight Howard‘s departure and an insurance policy behind Pau Gasol, one has to think Kaman is looking for another opportunity to actually contribute in a significant role, hence this deal.

The Central Michigan product still has plenty to offer on a rotational basis, as his 7’0″ and 265-pound presence alone clogs the lane for opposing slashers and complicates offenses. Kaman is by no means the steady scorer he used to be during his prime years, but he can still produce at a sound clip when given the opportunity off the bench.

This much he proved in a starting capacity last March with Gasol out of commission, thanks to averages of 14 points, 7.8 boards and 58.1 percent shooting on 20.5 minutes of play.

For an added bonus, understand that Kaman averaged the fewest minutes played of his career last season at just 18.9 per game, so he should be on relatively fresh legs by the start of next season.

As a former All-Star, Kaman’s role in the locker room as a mentor is also an added bonus to the quality minutes he provides on a nightly basis, health permitting.

All things equal, Kaman may be one of the biggest steals of this year’s open market.

 

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Lakers Insider: No Guarantees for Gutsy Xavier Henry, Plus Kaman, Key Dates

LOS ANGELES — If it were Kobe Bryant, it would’ve been legendary.

As it was Xavier Henry, it was just pretty impressive.

Henry doesn’t have nearly the body of work that Bryant does when it comes to playing well in pain and emerging victorious. But he showed a lot about himself in the Los Angeles Lakers‘ victory Tuesday night over the New York Knicks.

Henry came off the bench with more energy and passion than anyone in the building, blowing off the just-diagnosed torn ligament in his shooting wrist and the damaged cartilage in his knee. He had 22 points in 23 minutes and demonstrated how Henry can change the feeling in a game with his attack mentality, same as his 22 points off the bench in the season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“As long as I’m strong in my mind,” Henry said of the pain, “I got it.”

He has to do a lot of extra work on both his wrist and knee to keep them loose. The left wrist definitely will need offseason surgery; the right knee might also, but it is unclear whether the meniscus had this abnormality already or something went bad during this season.

Henry referred to the pain from both as “bearable”—with no intention of quitting on the season unless it is “unbearable.”

Henry summed up his mentality off the bench as trying to “turn it up one notch” from whatever was going on without him. It’s a niche that Henry fills well given his driving scoring skills, although there is some duplication with this roster.

Nick Young, Kent Bazemore, MarShon Brooks and Jordan Farmar all can be that sort of attack-mentality player off the bench. All have been sparks at different times, but they’ve also caused the Lakers’ flow to go more individual than team.

As the Lakers determine which players to re-sign for next season, that’ll be part of the thought-process. Young, Bazemore and Henry did great together without a point guard on the floor with them in the Lakers’ second-quarter surge against the Knicks, but New York is particularly ill-equipped to play with pace and got suckered into the Lakers’ frenetic, quick-shooting ball.

It might come down to defensive prowess as the Lakers seek improvement for next season. Henry has been inconsistent on that front, but fighting through the pain does certainly show some tenacity.

Henry also knows he’s playing for his next contract, one reason he insisted on coming back despite his knee being too slow to heal.

“This game is all about opportunity,” he said.

 

Save the Date

Here’s an odd one to circle on the calendar: April 14, Lakers visiting the Utah Jazz.

It’s the penultimate game of the season for the Lakers, but it could be crucial for draft positioning. The Lakers are 24-46, and the Jazz are 23-49—and the Jazz would also lock up the season-series tiebreaker with the final head-to-head victory over the Lakers.

The Lakers finish their season Apr. 16 at the San Antonio Spurs in another game that could be distinctive for not really trying. The Spurs could be resting players if their playoff seeding is set, whereas the Lakers might really need to lose their last game to lock in more draft lottery balls.

 

The Kaman Conundrum 

Many Lakers fans don’t understand Mike D’Antoni’s issues with Chris Kaman. One quote from Kaman on Tuesday night pretty much sums it up:

“I just think when you have certain players who can really play the game of basketball, I think you cater to their style.”

Kaman has an inflated sense of his own prowess, which is largely limited to the sort of individual scoring skill the team has from others, and he doesn’t want to do things outside his comfort zone.

D’Antoni hasn’t come close to convincing Kaman to do things his way.

 

Kevin Ding covers the Lakers for Bleacher Report.

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Lakers Rumors: L.A. may trade Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman, keep Pau Gasol

Image: ara.cat
Steve Blake was traded to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night in exchange for Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, signaling the start of the Los Angeles Lakers’ fire sale.
Though Mitch Kupchak said just last week that avoiding the repeater tax is not something the Lakers are concerned about, it seems the team has been aiming to acquire assets in exchange for expiring contracts this trade season while attempting to move below the luxury tax line in the process. The Blake trade helped with this on both accounts, seeing as L.A. picked up two young players that they can audition for the rest of the season while edging ever closer to moving below the luxury tax line.
Also, this deal may just mean that Pau Gasol will play out his contract with the Lakers.
After the trade went down, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that the Lakers may abandon the idea of trading Gasol. After the Blake trade, moving Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman would remove enough salary to take the Lakers be…

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Lakers Rumors: L.A. and Cleveland discussed Chris Kaman trade

Chris Kaman could end up getting traded to the city where he took a quick nap on the bench during a game earlier this season.
Yes, according to Jason Lloyd from Ohio.com, the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers recently discussed a trade that would send Kaman to play alongside Kyrie Irving, though the talks did not progress at the time.
Still, this confirms that the Lakers are indeed shopping Kaman and will likely move him for an asset if possible instead of simply losing him for nothing this summer.
This is the case with a number of the Lakers’ free-agents-to-be, including Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill. It seems likely that L.A. would agree to deal any of the aforementioned players if they can receive some kind of compensation in the form of draft pick or young prospect in return.
The trade deadline is set for 12:00 PM PST on Thursday.

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Why Los Angeles Lakers Must Elevate Chris Kaman to a Starting Role

Sometimes it seems that the Los Angeles Lakers have too many injuries, loose ends and shoddy performances to keep track of. However, if the Lakers want to shore up some of these issues and steady the team for the remainder of the season, they could begin by letting Chris Kaman play a starting role with the team.

The illustrious Lakers find themselves at the NBA All-Star break tied—with the Sacramento Kings—for last in the Western Conference at 18-35. Apparently, they are only capable of beating the Utah Jazz.

 

Nick Young, Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are all injured, essentially turning the bench into free advertising for high-end tailors in Los Angeles. The remaining roster is a starting five and a three-man weave drill at best. 

This confluence of negative factors is mostly short-term or fixable, but if the Lakers are going to start rebuilding, they need to patch up certain areas of their team right now. The veteran presence of Chris Kaman is a good place to start.

Considering the recent way Kaman’s playing time has been trending (more starts, more minutes), the real argument is that Kaman should be elevated to a starting role with a sense of permanence rather than one borne out of necessity due to injury.

Kaman has 29 games under his belt this season but just seven starts. He is averaging roughly 18 minutes per game.

While he has battled injuries, there have been plenty of DNPs (Did Not Play) followed by the enigmatic phrase “coach’s decision” next to Kaman’s name in the box score. 

This is strange considering the competition he has faced on the Lakers roster.

Jordan Hill is a workhorse but serviceable at best for now. Ryan Kelly is tall but is projected to develop as one of the new breed of oversized spot-up shooters, while Robert Sacre works hard but is hardly deserving of major NBA minutes.

And yet, for a couple of months there, it seemed as though those last two players were coach Mike D’Antoni‘s favored tandem in the absence of Gasol or whenever Hill needed a breather. This perplexed and frustrated Kaman for a time, and recently his rhetoric has turned to his need for opportunity, as this quote via ESPNLosangeles.com’s Dave McMenamin demonstrates:

Sometimes people will give you a different opportunity to make mistakes. I had a coach [Mike Dunleavy] for seven years that kind of worked with me and let me play through things. I’m going to make mistakes, but I think ultimately, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that I’m a pretty solid basketball player all around and I bring a lot of different things to the table. 

Kaman, at 31 years old, still makes mistakes but has shown plenty of fancy footwork and above-average shooting during his limited time on the court this season. 

When he is playing, he looks like one of the better true centers in the league. He has put up 10.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, a shade under his career average but impressive considering the minutes he’s been playing and the constant lineup shuffling.

There was an impressive 18 points in 16 minutes against the Phoenix Suns on January 10 as well as a recent 27-point outburst against the Chicago Bulls on February 9. In fact, Kaman looks good as a starting center, heading into the All-Star break with three straight double-doubles, at a time when some players take a visible drop in performance.

Speaking of visible, Kaman also, on occasion, passes the eyeball test with aplomb. This sumptuous move at the 2:14 mark of this video from the Lakers’ most recent game against the Oklahoma City Thunder would make Hakeem Olajuwon proud.

Now the typical argument against this might be that making Kaman a starter would take away minutes from developing players like Hill and Kelly, who could use the extra work in a throwaway campaign.

At 31 years old and with a one-year contract under his belt, he doesn’t project to have a long future in the NBA, but based on what he’s shown in limited minutes this season, he is about as agile and athletic as he has ever been and is blessed with the mind of a season veteran. 

And as it stands right now, the marching orders from up high are this: no tanking. Mitch Kupchak said as much to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

If you try to manipulate the draft, I’m not a karma guy, but if you try to manipulate this thing, it never works out the way you think it’s going to work out.

You’re better off doing what you know is the right thing to do and whatever happens happened for the right reason. And that’s our approach.

So the current share of minutes can change if it means keeping the better performers on the floor.

Kelly can lose some minutes if it means more time learning how to be a role player. Sacre averages 10.8 minutes a game for his career, which is an ideal amount of time for a player with his limited skill set.

Kaman can stand tall as the Lakers’ starting center, and even if Gasol gets healthy soon and isn’t traded, he would at least be one of the better backup centers in the league at any rate. Even so, D’Antoni could try to adjust his coaching style to allow two post players to work in tandem, although that move didn’t work out so well last year when Gasol was paired with Dwight Howard.

Kaman is different from Howard and is much more comfortable away from the basket (as this short chart from Vorped.com shows), which could allow Gasol to take up some more natural positions on the low block from time to time if the opportunity arose for them to both play starter’s minutes.

The minutes are certainly out there on a team that is young and looks constantly adrift, save for the recent professorial play of Kendall Marshall perhaps. Kaman is acutely aware of this.

 

 

He may not be synonymous with winning, but as a veteran, he knows what it takes to put in the required effort night in and night out. Given the chance, he can show this young crop of players with potential what that really means. In a supposedly lost season, what is there to lose? There is only something to gain for the Lakers and Kaman. All he needs is a start.

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Chris Kaman: Lakers ‘Aren’t Trying to Chase Picks’

The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t trying to lose games. They just aren’t any good at this whole basketball thing.

Chris Kaman, who’s now reclaimed a spot in coach Mike D’Antoni’s rotation, said L.A.’s mounting loss column isn’t intentional—it’s unavoidable with this injury-ravaged roster.

“Everybody knows we want to win,” he said, via Serena Winters of LakersNation.com. “It’s not like we are out here trying to chase picks, that’s not what we’re doing at all, I promise. I don’t think anybody thinks that way.”

After Tuesday’s 96-79 home loss to the youthful Utah Jazz, the Lakers (18-34) have lost six straight at Staples Center and nine of their last 11 overall.

For a franchise as proud as this, this stream of setbacks is almost foreign to the fanbase. At their current pace, the Lakers are headed for their lowest winning percentage (.346) since moving to L.A. in 1960.

They may not set the franchise’s new standard for futility, but it might be a while before things get any better.

Kobe Bryant (knee), Pau Gasol (groin), Nick Young (knee), Jodie Meeks (ankle) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring) all sat out Tuesday’s loss, and Steve Nash left after less than 17 minutes of action because of nerve root irritation in his leg and back, according to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times.

Even at full strength, the Lakers figured to be facing an uphill climb to the postseason in the fully loaded Western Conference. The roster is in dire need of a talent upgrade, and this upcoming draft supposedly holds an historically strong collection of game-changing players.

Hypothetically, the Lakers could embrace the loss column and aim to improve their draft lottery odds in hopes of landing a cornerstone piece. Kaman, however, isn’t the first to say the Lakers have no interest in tanking:

Of course, having an excuse doesn’t make these struggles any less depressing.

“It’s frustrating,” Kaman said after Tuesday’s loss, per Joe Resnick of The Associated Press (via NBA.com). “A lot of our guys are just trying to figure out where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be doing, because we’ve had so many guys hurt and then come back.”

The losses may eventually prove beneficial if the Lakers pull a prime piece out of the 2014 NBA draft.

Still, they’re going to sting for the time being. And those aren’t self-inflicted pains.

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Kobe Bryant not happy with Chris Kaman for napping on Lakers bench

It has been a frustrating season for both Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, it could be argued that it has been even more than frustrating. An unmitigated disaster might be a better way to describe it. An 18-33 record more than halfway through the schedule was not what the Lakers envisioned […]The post Kobe Bryant is pissed off at Chris Kaman for stretching out on bench during game last week appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Kobe Bryant is pissed off at Chris Kaman for stretching out on bench during game last week

It has been a frustrating season for both Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, it could be argued that it has been even more than frustrating. An unmitigated disaster might be a better way to describe it. An 18-33 record more than halfway through the schedule was not what the Lakers envisioned […]The post Kobe Bryant is pissed off at Chris Kaman for stretching out on bench during game last week appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Chris Kaman has room to spare while stretching out on Lakers’ injury-depleted bench (photo)

It was a bizarre game for the ages when the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Los Angeles Lakers at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday evening. An injury-plagued Lakers squad took the court for the game — Steve Nash (shouldn’t have shaved the ‘stache), Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol were all unavailable — meaning Mike […]The post Chris Kaman has room to spare while stretching out on Lakers’ injury-depleted bench (photo) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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