When Chris Kaman went into hibernation this summer, it sent many members of Clipper Nation into a state of paranoia. In previous years Kaman’s disappearance wouldn’t have raised so much as an eyebrow, but fans newly accustomed to receiving updates on what their favorite players were doing in neat little 140 character packages found themselves irritated. We learned that DeAndre Jordan seemingly works out more than humanly possible and gets his haircut at least 4 times a week. Sand dunes and summer ball were detailed, and great revelations were made about the team’s newly found chemistry. All while this was happening, there wasn’t a peep or a tweet heard from Kaman. This may have been the first case where a player not having a Twitter account hurt him. Little did anyone know, Kaman was working his tail off towards reviving his career.
When Dunleavy praised Kaman on the first day of training camp, Clippers fans collectively expressed their gratitude that Kaman didn’t spend his entire summer playing with pyrotechnics. “He looks great,” said Dunleavy. “[Clippers assistant coach] John Lucas just said to me, ‘Wow! That guy is really good. He can shoot hooks, jump hooks, left hand, right hand, 18-foot jump shots.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know. He’s got all the tools.’” Dunleavy was incredibly complimentary of Kaman at every turn this offseason, remarking that it was Kaman who arrived to training camp in the best shape of all the players. It was all par for the course for Kaman, who continually destroys expectations, one way or another.
Which Chris Kaman will the Clippers get this year? Will it be a revitalized Kaman, or the Kaman who could barely stay on the floor the last two seasons?
Hope: Kaman stays healthy and regains his 2007 form
15.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.8 blocks. Those were the averages Chris Kaman put up just two years ago. The list of players to average those numbers on a season is surprisingly short. Only four active players have been able to do it: Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard and Chris Kaman. If Kaman could have played all 82 games that year (instead of just 56) his season would have been considered one of the greatest statistical showings from a big man this decade. Now, after two straight injury plagued campaigns, Kaman finds himself fighting not only for minutes and a starting job, but also for the chance to re-establish himself once again as an elite NBA center.
One of the main issues fans have with Kaman is the 33 million he’s owed over the next 3 years, but consider the following. There are 30 starting NBA centers in the league. Only 12 of those centers have averaged over eight rebounds a game (Kaman averages 8.3) on their career. Kaman makes more money than only four of those twelve centers. Marcus Camby, on a great contract, is one of those centers. Two others are Al Horford and Brook Lopez, both on rookie deals. The only other active center to average 8 rebounds a game on their career who makes less money than Kaman is Andris Biedrins, who also sports a 53% free throw shooting mark on his career. Considering the scarcity at the center position and the league wide demand for quality 7 footers, Kaman’s contract is more than reasonable; it’s actually pretty good. Of course, Kaman’s true value is directly tied to how often he can remain on the court, but that’s the nature of the beast with a good portion of NBA centers, not just Kaman.
Can a team compete with a healthy Chris Kaman as its 4th best option? The hope is that the answer to that question is a resounding “yes”.
Fear: The Clippers are paying for potential, not production
At 27 years old, Kaman, alongside Baron Davis, represent the “middle aged” group of Clippers – not young guns, but certainly not veterans on their last legs either. Kaman and Baron’s futures are somewhat tied to each other, as both need to help make this team competitive quickly, lest they both be shipped out for .50 cents on the dollar. But how much patience should be exercised with an injury prone 7 year player? At what point does production need to replace potential? How many “now or never” moments can Kaman be presented with before it’s time to give up and write him off completely?
It’s pretty frightening to hitch playoff hopes on the stipulation that Kaman stays healthy. The added depth to the frontcourt provides some insurance, but it’s still hard to see the Clippers making a legitimate playoff push sans Kaman. He’s done everything he could to alleviate those injury concerns by showing up to camp in the best shape he’s been in years, but most people justifiably remain skeptical. Kaman is truly at the crossroads of his career, and needs now more than ever to prove that he’s worthy of the investment the Clippers made. Kaman has all the talent and has proven to be capable in the past, but his window of opportunity to prove it once more is quickly closing with DeAndre Jordan breathing down his neck and Blake Griffin siphoning minutes.
The hope: Kaman proves himself to be dependable by staying healthy.
The fear: Kaman will never actualize his full potential with the Clippers, or perhaps even worse, he’ll eventually actualize it elsewhere.