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Kaman Has Big Challenge

October 23, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

He has heard the tales, witnessed the feats of strength.

He knows the legend.

Tonight, rookie Chris Kaman gets his first up-close look at Shaquille O'Neal when the Clippers play the Lakers in an exhibition at the Arrowhead Pond.

"I want to see what it's like to play against him," the 7-foot center from Central Michigan said Wednesday after practice at L.A. Southwest College. "You hear a lot of stories in the locker room, on the bus, in the plane -- just how hard it is to play him one on one. So, I'm looking forward to it."

After sitting out all but one of the Clippers' first six exhibitions because of a lower left leg strain, Kaman probably would be eager to line up against anybody. A chance to exchange elbows with O'Neal only ups the ante.

"I know he's the most dominant player in the NBA, probably ever," Kaman said. "But you don't stop playing because somebody's so good. You've still got to play your game, do what you can to win. That's why I want to play in the NBA -- to play against the best players in the world."

Fortunately for Kaman, there's nobody else like O'Neal in the NBA, much less the Mid-American Conference, where the 268-pound Kaman was the player of the year last season, averaging 22.4 points and 12 rebounds.

He had another year of eligibility remaining but opted instead for the NBA and was the sixth player taken in the June draft. Along the way, he visited Southern California last spring to visit with agents. At a Laker playoff game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, he caught his first glimpse of O'Neal.

"He was huge, man," Kaman said of the 7-1, 340-pound Laker center. "You don't realize how big he is until you get up close to him."


With the regular-season opener a week away, Elton Brand and Quentin Richardson also are expected to return for the Clippers tonight. Brand sat out three games because of a sprained left ankle and Richardson was sidelined Sunday against the Golden State Warriors because of back spasms.

"There's still a little swelling, but nothing major," Brand said. "If it was the regular season, I probably would have played one of the last two games."


Coach Mike Dunleavy, discussing who might play more when the team opens the season next week in Japan without Glen Rice, who will miss the trip because of a knee injury: "The next two games will ultimately determine that."

One candidate is Bobby Simmons, who signed with the Clippers on the eve of training camp after playing last season for the Washington Wizards.

"He's played well so far in the preseason," Dunleavy said.


Forward Tremaine Fowlkes was waived, cutting the roster to 17 players. In 59 games in two seasons with the Clippers, Fowlkes averaged 4.0 points and 2.8 rebounds.

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