Mavericks hope Kaman is the answer at center

BY foxsports • September 18, 2012

DALLAS – The search for a quality center in Dallas hasn't proven as elusive as, say, the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot. We've at least seen a couple of sightings over the last three decades.

But for every Tyson Chandler or James Donaldson, we've been subjected to about two dozen versions of Chris Anstey and Uwe Blab. In the Dirk Nowitzki Era alone, the roll call of pivots includes, in no particular order, Shawn Bradley, Wang Zhizhi, Evan Eschmeyer, Calvin Booth, Raef LaFrentz, Erick Dampier, DeSagana Diop and Brendan Haywood. The Mavericks even fiddled with Scott Williams, Danny Fortson and Antoine Walker in the middle.

Not exactly murderer's row.

We're not to say the search is over, since we've been fooled by several of the names above into thinking, he's the one. Still, one has to consider that the latest '5' has a chance to be something better than the Big D norm.

Chris Kaman arrived with a résumé and a chip. He's a former All-Star who, while not considered elite, has been pretty darn effective on the court over the last nine years. As long as he stays on the court. Kaman has missed double-digit games five times in nine years.

But he insists he's healthy and ready for a big season. The Mavericks were convinced enough to dole out $8 million for the 30-year-old 7-footer.

"The only thing I can promise you about Chris is that he's got a different game than we've ever seen with any Mavericks big man because of the different things that he can do," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "I can promise all the writers and the media people that there will never be a dull moment with his quotes."

Fans will enjoy Kaman's unique Twitter observations (@ChrisKaman) even more if he's snaring rebounds, redirecting shots and hitting that jumper than Mark Cuban has already fallen in love with on trips into basement practice gym at American Airlines Center.

"It's the first time since I've owned the Mavs that I've walked downstairs and I've seen our center shooting the ball and taking jump shots and I didn't cringe," Cubes cracked.

Kaman already shares a strong bond with frontcourt partners Nowitzki and Elton Brand, being a teammate to each power forward. Brand and Kaman spent five years together with the Los Angeles Clippers.

"I thought we were one of the better 4-5 combos for awhile there," Kaman said. "We had a lot of success and I'm looking for the same things here. Whether it's Dirk and me, Dirk and Elton, me and Elton, I think we all fit really well. I'm just ready to go."

Carlisle sees possibilities inside he or the Mavericks haven't enjoyed before.

"We've never had three big guys like Elton, Chris and Dirk that can be effective inside and can step out and shoot the ball," he said. "One of the things that has been a real challenge for us offensively is that our center position hasn't had guys that can stretch the floor."

Nowitzki certainly welcomes it. Kaman's connection with Dallas' No. 41 stretches overseas and back for generations. Nowitzki convinced Kaman to join the Germany' national team more than four years go in its Olympic bid. Kaman, eligible because of his German great-grandparents, joined the cause and they've paired up for Deutschland ever since.

Just don't ask Kaman for directions in Hamburg.

"Since 2008, I've been a part of the German national team even though I'm not much German," the Michigan native said with a laugh. "I think I've got some ancestors down the line. It worked out. Since then, I've been real comfortable in the offseason and the summer participating with him in different events."

Kaman also picked Nowitzki's brain about Cuban and Carlisle. When deciding on where to continue his career after eight years with the Clippers and one with the Hornets, Kaman settled on Dallas over Portland.

"I just felt like it was a place that was open, had a lot of space and had a different lifestyle than L.A. and New Orleans," he said. "I just felt a little more comfortable with that. I had a couple of other options on the table, but I felt more comfortable here and I felt like I could make a good future here, so that's why I made my choice."

Personal comfort is one thing. The potential to win is something else. And while the Mavericks don't enter the season as a Western Conference favorite, they could be in the mix for a middle playoff seed if things fall into place.

Kaman has participated in only 11 playoff games in his career. Nowitzki has averaged more than 10 playoff games in each of the last 12 seasons. Kaman just wants a fighting chance to do something special beyond Game No. 82.

"One of the big reasons for me coming here was I've been on teams that have really struggled in the past," he said. "After a while, you get comfortable in that and that's not what I want and not what I want for my future."