Center Chris Kaman, Lakers agree to contract

Now that Dwight Howard is Houston-bound, the Los Angeles Lakers have their backup plan.

The team has agreed to a one-year deal with free-agent center Chris Kaman, who will return to Los Angeles after playing eight seasons with the Clippers. The deal is reportedly for one year at $3.2 million.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Lakers put on a statement from Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak that said the team “has been engaged in negotiations with free-agent center Chris Kaman and intends to sign him to a contract at the conclusion of the NBA Moratorium Period (July 10).”

Kaman was the sixth overall pick in the 2003 draft, and he was an immediate starter for the Clippers, who struggled for his first two seasons in the league before making the playoffs in 2005-06.

As a key piece in the deal that brought Chris Paul to the Clippers, Kaman was dealt to New Orleans in 2011, where he played one season before spending 2012-13 in Dallas. He peaked production-wise in 2009-10, when he averaged 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds for a struggling Clippers team. Last season in Dallas, he averaged 10.5 points and 5.6 rebounds, starting 52 of the 66 games in which he played.

Kaman, 31, will be a valuable veteran presence on a Lakers team that might have to rely on less experienced (read: cheap) players to fill its bench. With questions surrounding Pau Gasol’s health — he has been plagued by knee problems and plantar fasciitis — the team needs a big man who will be able to back up Gasol while shouldering at times significant minutes.

Kaman, who averaged 20.7 minutes last season, is their guy. He and Gasol could even play alongside each other, with Gasol at forward, and it seems that Kaman’s exact role will be shaped by the way the Lakers’ roster evolves this summer.

Those same finances will necessitate that Kaman take a significant pay cut from the $8 million he made last year in Dallas. According to multiple reports, he’ll get the team’s $3.2 million “mini” mid-level exception, and with that, the Lakers will have only minimum contracts to offer for the rest of free agency.

Kaman had some fun on Twitter with the news: