The Paper Clips have been losers for decades, making the playoffs just twice in the past 25 years. But with All-Star forward Elton Brand enjoying an MVP-like year and the arrival of proven winner Sam Cassell, the Clippers seem poised to make a breakthrough. The big names on the team are the aforementioned duo along with Cuttino Mobley and high-flying swingman Corey Maggette. They supply the SportsCenter highlights and swagger that a winning NBA team needs, but every budding champion needs that blue collar guy too. That Ben Wallace, Horace Grant, Bill Laimbeer-type who will bang and do the dirty work down low. And the Clippers got that guy – Chris Kaman. He just hasn't received the recognition he deserves. But if the Clips keep winning, he will.
"We just need to limit our injuries, play defense first, and take care of the basketball," says Kaman when asked what is the key in order to continue winning.
Sam Cassell's play is another key.
"Its fun," the Clippers center says about playing with the mercurial point guard. "But sometimes it’s a little difficult because you don't know what he is going to do next with the ball."
That sums up the excitement of the Clippers these days, because they are capable of beating any team in the league.
In the 2003 draft, the Clippers picked Chris Kaman with the 6th pick. Not many people in the league or media thought much of the seven-foot country boy center out of Central Michigan. It was the Clippers, for goodness sake. The same team that blundered in the draft with Benoit Benjamin and Michael Olowokandi. So why would Chris Kaman be any different?
But now in his third year in the league, he is making a difference. As his minutes have increased so have his points, rebounds and assists. Kaman had a career high 23 rebounds against Minnesota earlier this month and is almost averaging a double-double. He is improving game by game under Mike Dunleavy's tutelage, and just as the Clippers are having a breakout year, he is coming into his own.
"It's good," says Kaman on playing for Dunleavy. "He's very thorough and expects nothing but the best from his players. He gets the best out of his players."
Just as Dunleavy believes in Kaman, LA fans are starting to believe in the Clips. For once, they are clearly LA's best team surpassing the Lakers and Kobe. And the 24-year-old center is a big part of it. His strong play in the paint is exactly what they need.
Coming out of college, draft experts said he needed to add more upper body strength. And he has – getting his weight up to almost 270 pounds so he can bang with Shaq and the other the big boys.
Although not the giant Shaq is, Kaman is still is very big and active. He runs the floor well to finish off breaks with Sam I Am. The kid is ambidextrous too, finishing with either hand around the basket. He's tough and enjoys the physical contact in the lane. He is a classic back-to-the-basket low-post player. Call him old school if you want, but he's making his presence felt.
He remembers his roots, too.
"I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and playing in the NBA was always a dream of mine growing up," Kaman says.
Michigan. That's what the Tri-Unity Christian HS product calls home. The lights of Hollywood are nice, but he's a Midwestern boy at heart.
"We just need to finish the season off strong," Kaman says alluding to the Clippers' playoff hopes.
If Kaman keeps improving and Cassell stays healthy, the Clips will definitely be in the postseason due in part to the big play of their white boy out of Central Michigan.
Can you say future NBA All-Star?
Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti, federal prison number 18205-083, is housed at FCI Loretto. Previously he resided at FCI Fairton, FCI Fort Dix, FCI Beckley and FCI Manchester. He has been a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com since 2003
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