Chris Kaman’s seemingly unending tour to find an NBA team that likes him as much in February as they do in July will truck onward, this time to Portland. As first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the offensive-minded big man will join the Trail Blazers for a two-year deal totaling $9.8 million. The second year is only partially guaranteed, Woj reports, only counting for $1 million against Portland’s salary cap.
The city of Portland seems an odd match with the gun-brandishing Kaman, but this is where the big man is at in his career. At previous stops in New Orleans, Dallas, and Los Angeles he was relegated to that of a role player after being acquired by those teams to plug in the hole in the interior.
During Kaman’s one season in Los Angeles, he played fewer than half the team’s games despite contributing perhaps the best per-minute stats of his career. One could chalk that up to his uneasiness working in former coach Mike D’Antoni’s transition-heavy system (the Lakers ranked second in possessions per game last season), but for whatever reason the two failed to find a proper forum in which to communicate.
We’d chalk that up to a one-year misstep had Kaman not had the same frustrations in Dallas the year before, which led to him scrounging for a $3 million deal with the Lakers last summer. His short stint with the former New Orleans Hornets in 2011-12 was just as unfulfilling, and it’s fair to assume that age 32 that this is Kaman’s last real chance to climb back onto the career arc that once looked so promising when he was an All-Star with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Those days are over, and he won’t have the same scoring opportunities in Portland, or the same chances to put up solid offensive numbers. The Blazers are set with LaMarcus Aldridge and starting center Robin Lopez taking up room up front, but that shouldn’t preclude Kaman from putting up efficient scoring numbers in quick bursts off a Blazer bench that has come a long way since its miserable showing in the 2012-13 season. General manager Neil Olshey (who was Kaman’s GM with the Clippers) probably isn’t counting on Kaman’s scoring antics to put his Blazers over the top, or into the third round, but he can help.
That’s the hope, at least, the same hope that outfits in New Orleans, Dallas and Los Angeles had during three consecutive offseasons. Kaman has now been a member of five teams since the NBA lockout lifted in Dec. 2011, and even in a league starved for scoring big men, his reputation isn’t exactly at an all-time high. Being unable to even crack the rotation, much less the starting lineup, for a miserable Laker team doesn’t exactly enhance the resume. In theory, a high/low attack featuring Kaman and Pau Gasol should have done damage in Los Angeles, but D’Antoni only saw fit to start Kaman 13 times all year.
Somehow, Kaman parlayed that year into nearly $6 million of guaranteed money spread out over two years in Portland, and potential $9.8 million in total. If he disappoints again, a salary featuring just over $5 million of salary cap heft but only counting for $1 million against the cap in reality could be used in a trade with a team desperately looking to clear cap space, and the Blazers could earn some further assets along the way. For a squad that is still safe from the luxury tax, even considering Kaman’s past frustrations, this seems like a sound move all around.
This is a last chance, though, which seems like a shame for a player whose scoring gifts would seem to age gracefully into his early and mid-30s. Portland was never going to be able to secure that mythical “rim protector with skills” in this free agent market, so doubling down on more scoring is always a solid alternative.
Kaman will have to show up, though. The onus is on him.
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