The Houston Rockets have had extensive discussions with the New Orleans Hornets about center Chris Kaman and appear to be in the lead to trade for him, numerous sources told SI.com.
The NBA-owned Hornets, who acquired Kaman from the Clippers in the Chris Paul deal on Dec. 15, rendered him inactive last week and publicly acknowledged their decision to trade him. Hornets general manager Dell Demps has been shopping for a deal involving young players and draft picks while the big man awaits his next destination. Kaman, 29, an All-Star in 2009-2010 when he averaged 18.5 points and 9.2 rebounds, is making $14 million in the last year of his contract.
Dealing with the Hornets means any trade must be vetted by league executives Stu Jackson and Joel Litvin before being approved by commissioner David Stern. A week before Paul was traded to the Clippers, Stern vetoed a three-team deal that would have sent the star point guard to the Lakers and Pau Gasol to the Rockets, who are now back negotiating with New Orleans.
While no deal is imminent and the pieces are still being discussed, sources said the talks have involved the Rockets' two top-10 picks from the 2009 draft -- center Hasheem Thabeet (No. 2 by Memphis) and power forward Jordan Hill (No. 8 by New York). The Rockets have other young former first-rounders who could be included as well, among them second-year forward Patrick Patterson, third-year point guard Jonny Flynn and third-year small forward Terrence Williams. They also have a 2012 first-round pick from the Knicks that the Hornets would love to obtain.
According to several reports, Cleveland, San Antonio and Indiana are among the other teams interested in Kaman. Atlanta and Golden State have also been linked to Kaman, but sources said a deal with either team appears unlikely. Philadelphia does not intend to pursue Kaman, a source close to the 76ers told SI.com's Zach Lowe.
Kaman played 17 games with the Hornets this season, averaging 9.2 points and 6.6 rebounds in 22.7 minutes. The nine-year veteran has career averages of 11.7 points and 8.3 rebounds.
The Hornets are 4-17 in their worst start since 2004-05, the season before Paul arrived. Making matters worse, shooting guard Eric Gordon, the centerpiece of the Paul deal for the Hornets, has played only two games because of a bruised right knee and isn't expected to return for at least two more weeks. Gordon recently turned down a four-year extension offer from New Orleans.