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Clippers seem more focused on Chris Kaman's future with the team than on the NBA draft

The team is looking for a small forward and the center might be on the trading block. L.A. has the Nos. 37 and 47 picks Thursday.

June 22, 2011|By Lisa Dillman
  • Chris Kaman is a valuable trade commodity for the Clippers because of his expiring contract, with one year remaining at $12.2 million.
Chris Kaman is a valuable trade commodity for the Clippers because of his… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )

Recent Clippers history, a telling case study in trade rumors.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, was said to be going on in the days leading up to the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 24. Then came a rush of phone calls, a puff of smoke from Cleveland and Baron Davis vanished and became a Cavalier.

Just like that.

This doesn't mean that Clippers' center Chris Kaman will be dealt Thursday — the day of the NBA draft — or that he won't be traded. It just illustrates that trade rumors often start circulating after a deal is dead. More often than not, serious negotiations take place and silence ensues when deals are close to completion.

Kaman's future and the team's ongoing quest for a star small forward have been overshadowing the Clippers draft activities this year largely because the team doesn't have a first-round pick — that went to Cleveland with Davis in the deal for point guard Mo Williams.

Neil Olshey, the Clippers vice-president of basketball operations, called Thursday's proceedings largely "a role-player draft."

"Based on our analysis of the draft at the time of the [Davis] trade, we felt like there were a couple of starters and some rotation-caliber players [in this year's draft]," Olshey said. "We see it as a draft for role players.

"I just don't think the safe guys are as good as you would normally be used to getting at the draft."

The Clippers have two selections in the second round, one at No. 37 and another at No. 47, coming at a time when the cleaning crews are ready to turn out the lights. But it should be noted that the Clippers were able to grab soon-to-be-restricted free-agent center DeAndre Jordan at No. 35 in the 2008 draft.

The Clippers are spending more time working on deals to get an established player rather than making a trade to move up in the draft.

What makes Kaman such a valuable trade commodity is his expiring contract, one year remaining at $12.2 million. Working against the 29-year-old is the fact he was limited to 32 games last season because of a lingering high-ankle sprain and played in 139 games over the last three seasons.

Apparently, this was enough for the 76ers not to pursue a deal or even present a counteroffer to an early-May proposal of Kaman and Clippers small forward Ryan Gomes in exchange for small forward Andre Iguodala and power forward Marreese Speights.

Rod Thorn, 76ers president, told reporters in Philadelphia that there has been dialogue about Iguodala, not specifying any teams, adding that no trade was "imminent."

Internally, the Clippers have set Thursday as an unofficial trade deadline, moving day, if you will. Most NBA teams are approaching it that way because in the off-season a player has seven days to report after a trade. With a potential NBA lockout looming July 1, teams would want to have the physicals and other evaluations completed by June 30.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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