If the Denver Nuggets hadnít agreed to give free agent big man Nene a fifth year when they offered him a new contract in December he would now be a member of the Indiana Pacers. It was that close to happening.
Pacers GM David Morway didnít want to make substantial changes to the team that had come together so quickly and played so well under new head coach Frank Vogel; rather, he wanted to make one or two key additions to solidify their front court. His first step was adding All-Star power forward David West, and he would happily have spent the money to add Nene, as well.
The Nuggets did give Nene the fifth year, of course, and the coveted big man returned to Denver, but that doesnít mean Morway isnít still interested in adding size to his front court to complement budding star Roy Hibbert at center.
Enter the New Orleans Hornets . . .and center Chris Kaman.
The Hornets werenít looking for a center when they started shopping Chris Paul. They were actually looking for help in the backcourt. The trade they initiated with the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets brought Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and Luis Scola to town . . .though, of course, that trade was nixed by NBA Commissioner/Hornets owner David Stern. When the subsequent (approved) trade with the Los Angeles Clippers brought Chris Kaman to town it was really more about his ending contract that any desire on the Hornetsí part to add a second starting center behind Emeka Okafor.
That part of the relationship didnít last long, either, as Kaman has been asked to stay away from the team until GM Dell Demps can complete a trade sending him elsewhere.
Naturally, a number of teams are interested in Kaman, as quality starting centers are in increasingly short supply in the NBA. Make no mistake, when Kaman is healthy he is a quality starting center. He averaged 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in 76 games in 2009-10, but has struggled with a number of injuries since then. He was off to a solid start to 2011-12 with the Hornets, though seeing limited minutes, averaging 9.2 points and 6.6 rebounds.
The Pacers are said to be the frontrunners in the Chris Kaman sweepstakes, though the Houston Rockets are also actively engaged in the discussion. Indiana has enough cap space to absorb Kaman without sending any contracts back to New Orleans
. The Rockets have the 2012 draft pick New Orleans wants, but they would need to send contract dollars back to New Orleans and that might be a deterrent for the Hornets. Houston is looking to unload baggage Ė Hasheem Thabeet, specifically Ė or underachieving players like Jordan Hill, Terrence Williams or Jonny Flynn.
The Hornets are believed to favor sending Kaman to Indiana, thus avoiding unnecessary salary burden, and itís a move that could make the Pacers scary good.
They are already right on the heels of the Chicago Bulls and in a virtual tie with Philadelphia, Miami and Atlanta for second in the Eastern Conference. Adding one more big man to the mix could put Indiana a step ahead of the rest of the East, save probably Chicago and Miami.
Stay tuned . . .it sounds like the Hornets will make a decision on where to trade Kaman in the next couple of days.