Chris Kaman returns from injury
Chris Kaman had planned on waiting until the end of the month, maybe even early March, to return from an ankle injury that has gutted much of his season.
But with the Los Angeles Clippers' eight-game road trip spiraling down the drain at an alarming rate after consecutive losses to the Cavaliers, Raptors and Bucks, he decided to make a surprise appearance in Wednesday's game against the Timberwolves.
The timing was odd and immediately led some to wonder whether Kaman was being showcased for a trade.
Clippers general manager Neil Olshey said the decision was more about the team's wanting to end its eight-game road trip on a high note and knowing that Kaman would have the entire All-Star break to recuperate.
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"I think he saw we were short-handed and that what could've been an incredibly positive road trip was fast turning into something else," Olshey said when reached by ESPNLosAngeles.com late Wednesday night. "I give Chris a lot of credit for sucking it up and playing through pain tonight, because it really made a difference for us.
"Adding that quality big man into the rotation, who could protect the rim, rebound, block shots and stretch the defense may have been the difference in the game. I thought Chris really gave us a lift in the limited minutes he played."
Kaman, who has played in just two games since Nov. 9, had four points, six rebounds and three blocked shots in 9 minutes, 31 seconds of action in the Clippers' 98-90 win over the Timberwolves.
He said afterward his ankle felt all right, just a little sore.
"But I expected that," he said. "It just needs more and more strengthening, and it has to get used to playing again. It has to get used to running up and down and jumping and getting beaten up on a lot. I'm trying to be positive about it and just keep moving forward."
Kaman first got hurt Nov. 9 against New Orleans, returned for two games and aggravated the injury Dec. 5 against Portland. He missed 45 games in all and 34 in a row.
With four games in five nights after the All-Star break, the Clippers wanted to give Kaman some rest over the long weekend before increasing his time.
"I've got to do whatever's best for myself and also what's best for the team," Kaman said. "I've got to make sure my career stays in good position, so I've got to make sure the ankle is healthy."
Coach Vinny Del Negro also said the team hopes to have scoring leader Eric Gordon back next week after the break. He sprained his right wrist when he fell Jan. 22 against Golden State.
"Let's find out exactly what kind of team we have when we get healthy in a week or so," Del Negro said. "I'm looking forward to the other half."
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.