You were drafted by the Clippers in 2003 as the sixth overall pick and spent eight seasons with them before being traded to the Hornets. Did you think at some point you were going to play your entire career with the Clippers?
Chris Kaman: I had some thoughts about that, yeah. But last year when they hired Vinny (Del Negro) as coach, they started to change the team in a different direction. They started to go uptempo and wanted to run more and push the pace. They wanted real athletic guys and that’s not really my style for the most part. But when they had the opportunity to trade for Chris Paul, it was a great opportunity for them. So they thought the trade would work best for them. That was the decision they made. I don’t think they handled it in the most professional way, but it was definitely a good deal for them.
What was your immediate reaction when you heard about the trade?
CK: I was shocked. I didn’t know if it was real or not. I called my agent and he didn’t answer and then Al-Farouq (Aminu) called his agent and he told us it was done. My agent called me an hour later and we talked about it and there really wasn’t much you could do about it. I was moving to New Orleans. I didn’t mind; it wasn’t a big deal, but it was definitely shocking.
In light of how well the Clippers are doing now, in your heart of hearts do you wish you were still playing for them?
CK: You know what? Yes and no. I’m in a new city and with a new team and I’m happy. I got to keep being professional and do my job the best I can here until someone says otherwise. But it’s still a little frustrating. I put my heart into the team in L.A. I definitely cared about being there. I enjoyed my time there. The people who worked in the organization, besides a few people who I won’t name, are really great people. It is what it is. It’s a business. I’m where I’m at for a reason. I feel like God has a plan for my life and I’m here for a reason.
The Clippers have been the laughingstock of the NBA. Do you think that’s changing, that there’s a different culture within the organization now?
CK: We always tried to change the culture when I was there, but the way it had been set up for all those years wasn’t set up for success. It was set up for failure, in my opinion. For the most part, from an organizational standpoint, they definitely tried and tried to get guys. But it seemed like we could never find the right guys to come together and have the right chemistry. We never could get the chemistry we wanted. And that starts upstairs.
The Hornets publicly acknowledged several weeks ago that they were trying to trade you and then didn’t play you. What was running through your mind when this occurred?
CK: It was something I couldn’t control. They asked me to be professional about it and I did my best and they were professional about it, too. I don’t know what happened, maybe they couldn’t find a trade. I just used the time to work out and get in better shape.
The scuttlebutt around the league was that you wanted out of New Orleans. Fact or fiction?
CK: That’s something I really can’t talk about. I will say that my job isn’t to worry about that stuff and just play. It’s a tough question to answer.
The NBA trading deadline is March 15. Do you expect to be traded?
CK: I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. I think it’s 50-50 right now.
If you do get traded, do you think the team that acquires you will want a commitment that you will stay with them beyond this season? And are you willing to make that commitment?
CK: At this point, I don’t even know. I just want to play basketball. If that’s here or somewhere else, that’s God’s plan and that’s what I’ll do. I’m just going to keep playing hard and try and help this team get as many wins as it can.
You’ll become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Are you already looking forward to free agency and being able to chose to play where you want?
CK: I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it. It’s coming whether I like it or not.
Is there a team you would like to play for next season or a conference that you‘d prefer being in?
CK: Good question. Right now, I’m in limbo. I don’t know where I want to go. I’m here and I’m going to give my heart to where I’m at. I enjoy the city of New Orleans – it’s a great place – and I enjoy the Hornets fans. I don’t have any complaints right now.
As surreal as it may seem, would you be open to playing for the Clippers again?
CK: If they made some different decisions with some of the people in the upper management then, yeah, maybe. But the way it is there now, no.
Are you caught up in the Linsanity? What are your thoughts on Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin?
CK: I’ve been paying attention to it. I see highlights of him on SportsCenter here and there. I don’t personally know him, but he’s been playing amazing and helping the Knicks win. I got a lot of respect for the way he’s handling himself.
Gery Woelfel covers the Milwaukee Bucks and NBA for The Racine Journal Times.