Kaman never thought he'd be back in L.A.

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
7:26
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- After spending the first eight years of his career in L.A. after the Los Angeles Clippers drafted him in 2003, Chris Kaman never thought his path would lead him back to the City of Angels.

"I'm excited for another opportunity back in L.A.," Kaman said Tuesday at his introductory news conference with the Los Angeles Lakers. "I never thought it was possible. I just never thought I would be back here."

[+] EnlargeKaman
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesChris Kaman said instead of holding out for more money, a return to Los Angeles felt right.
How sure was Kaman, who spent the past two seasons in New Orleans and Dallas, that his life was done in L.A.?

"A week and a half, literally, before I decided to make my decision to come [to L.A.] I closed on my house in Manhattan Beach that I had had for like five years," Kaman said with a groan.

Just like the Lakers never expected Dwight Howard to bolt after only one season when they acquired him, Kaman figured his days in Los Angeles were a thing of the past. The Clippers had moved on with DeAndre Jordan in the middle. The Lakers had just the mini midlevel exception, worth about $3.2 million, available to try to lure a non-veteran-minimum-type free agent. And the Lakers were offering only a one-year deal, looking to keep their books open to make a major splash in the summer of 2014.

Much like Howard took a paycut to go to Houston, Kaman chose not to hold out for more money because L.A. felt right.

"Sometimes players are not fitting in the best situations all the time and it didn't work the way that I anticipated," Kaman said of his one-year stint with the Dallas Mavericks, playing alongside his German national team comrade, Dirk Nowitzki. "Coming into this year, I wanted to make sure that I had a good fit where I would go."

While there's a Howard-sized void in the Lakers' roster where Kaman can slide right in, it remains to be seen whether he will start at center with Pau Gasol at power forward, or be the first big man off the bench backing up Gasol and Jordan Hill.

"It doesn’t matter to me," Kaman said of a potential substitute role. "I'm here to do a job and, whatever it is, I'll do it."

Kaman averaged a modest 10.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks last season, but it's the way Kaman scored that had the Lakers interested. He can play the pick-and-pop game, evidenced by his 51 percent mark from midrange last season (16-23 feet from the hoop), which ranked seventh among players who played in at least 40 games.

"We feel we've added a player who cannot only defend, rebound, [he is] very versatile," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "I think [he is] an under-appreciated defender and offensively with what we do here in Los Angeles, I think he's going to fit in really well with pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops. He's very versatile down in the low post, can score with his left hand and his right hand. So, we think he's going to fit in."

While Howard bristled at the Lakers' proclivity to go pick-and-roll heavy, preferring post-up touches, Kaman is on board with the system.

"I think the game is changing," Kaman, 31, said. "I think the game is evolving into a pick-and-roll game and a face-up game. I think you see less post-up guys nowadays. They're running smaller guys at 5s and 4s. You see LeBron [James] kind of guys at the 4 spots and Chris Bosh kind of guys at the 5s."

It's that exact reason Kupchak said the Lakers chose Mike D'Antoni as their coach.

"There are some teams with some bigs guys, there are. But I see that in my head after playing for 10 years, you kind of see that going away a little bit, I think, to more of an athletic, slashing, running game," Kaman said.

Perhaps in anticipation of all the running, Kaman showed up at the Lakers' practice facility with a more streamlined look, having cut the beard he had been growing since February.

"Who wants to see me coming in there like a caveman?" Kaman joked. "Actually, my wife made me cut it off. 'You're not going in there like that.' "

Kaman had fun with the beard story, showing some of the eccentric personality he's known for, and making for a generally entertaining news conference that also included Kaman revealing why he hasn't spoken to any of his new Lakers' teammates yet.

"I've been in the woods for like the last month and a half," Kaman said. "No really, for real, that wasn't a joke. In Illinois, I have some property I was out working on, getting stuff ready for the deer hunting season."

Before that, of course, he'll have some house hunting to do now that he's back in L.A.

"I got to find a rental," Kaman said, adding he's looking for a place that will accommodate his two dogs. "If anybody knows where there's a rental, let me know. South Bay, please."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0