Chris Kaman is leaving the Lakers after a turbulent season that saw him butt heads with former coach Mike D'Antoni.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)
By Ben Golliver
July 04, 2014

The Trail Blazers have agreed to sign unrestricted free agent center Chris Kaman to a two-year, $9.8 million contract, according to Yahoo Sports and The second year of the contract is partially guaranteed for $1 million.

Kaman, 32, spent last season with the Lakers after signing a one-year, $3.2 million contract in 2013. 

"Dang, everyone already knows about the Portland deal already?!  I think the media has illegal wire taps going on," Kaman joked on Twitter. "I am very excited to get the offer from the Blazers and can't wait to get this season started! I loved the Lakers organization and especially the fans, they were always so loyal and supportive!"

The change of scenery is no surprise for Kaman, who didn't enjoy much of a relationship with former coach Mike D'Antoni. The 7-footer told reporters that he went weeks without speaking to his coach during the season, and he had a stretch of DNP-CDs to prove it.

All told, Kaman averaged 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 50.9 percent for Los Angeles. His season was highlighted by a monster 28-point, 17-rebound outing against the Suns in March, but he also dealt with foot and calf injuries, and wound up missing more than half of the Lakers' games. 

Portland will utilize Kaman as a back-up to starting center Robin Lopez, hoping that Kaman's offensive skills will add some punch to a bench that ranked No. 30 in scoring last season. Kaman joins a center rotation that also includes British forward/center Joel Freeland and 2012 lottery pick Meyers Leonard, giving Portland four big bodies to complement All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, at least for now. 

The Blazers had been seeking a big man this summer, with reports linking them to Spencer Hawes, Channing Frye and Josh McRoberts, among others. Portland's quick agreement with Kaman, which will use up most of the team's mid-level exception, can perhaps be read as a signal that some of those names will either stay put with their current teams or sign for more than mid-level money. Portland GM Neil Olshey was GM of the Clippers during Kaman's stay in Los Angeles, and the Blazers had reportedly pursued Kaman in both 2012 and 2013. This time, they got their man.

Grade: C-minus

Portland was in a tight spot this summer, wielding only a mid-level exception in their pursuit of a rotation-ready big man -- the NBA's most expensive position -- to add to coach Terry Stotts' rotation. Their decision to tap Kaman has all the makings of a "something is better than nothing" back-up plan: he's coming off a down year, he's missed tons of time since 2011 with assorted injuries, and he's a full four seasons removed from his prime.

Kaman fits with the Blazers by only the most basic definition: he is an NBA-caliber center who is over-matched against starters but can hold his own against most second-unit players, making him an immediate upgrade over both Freeland and Leonard. No one will mistake Kaman for a defensive force or a rim protector, but he averaged more points per game than any Blazers sub last season, including Sixth Man Mo Williams. The biggest issue at play is whether he can stay on the court: Kaman has appeared in just 59 percent of his team's games over the last four seasons. 

The tough reality facing Portland, who advanced in the postseason for the first time since 2000, is that their mid-level exception was their best weapon for taking a step forward next year. Kaman, even if he stays healthy, just isn't a game-changing talent. In both of his most recent stops, with the Lakers and the Mavericks, his teams were outscored by more than three points per 100 possessions when he was on the court. Portland's bench is so anemic that a talent infusion would have been welcomed at virtually every position, and Kaman doesn't quite fit that bill.

Coming off of a down year, Kaman should be thrilled with the size of his paycheck here, as he enjoys a fat raise despite not being able to live up to his previous salary. Surely some of the blame for that falls on D'Antoni, and Portland is banking on Stotts being able to find a better way to incorporate Kaman on both ends. Lopez enjoyed a career year under Stotts in 2013-14, so maybe there is some reason for hope.

The partial guarantee on the second year amounts to another win for Kaman, who has played for four different teams in the last four seasons. It seems more likely than not that Portland will find itself wanting to explore its options at the position again next summer; if that happens and Kaman must go, he pockets an extra million for nothing.

It's worth noting that Freeland is entering the third and final year of his contract. Kaman's addition should turn Freeland's $3 million expiring contract into trade bait. As for Leonard -- who has struggled to get a toehold into the rotation through two years -- his path to minutes just got that much more crowded. This move could be either a source of motivation or a confidence-crusher for Leonard, who lost his job to Freeland last season. All eyes in Portland will be on Leonard when he takes the Las Vegas Summer League next week. 

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