If Billy King Jumped Off the Empire State Building...

According to Jason Reid in the LA Times, Chris Kaman and his agent Rob Pelinka are looking for more money than the 5/$50M that the Clippers have offered.  Hell, if I was 7 feet tall, with solid skills, coming off three straight years of improvement in the NBA (which, as it turns out, I am not), I'd be looking for more money too.

Chris Kaman However, I'm not sure that I would use the particular negotiating tack they've taken.  Kaman continually refers to the deals of Samuel Dalembert and Tyson Chandler when asked about his extension.  (A quick aside - I've seen Dalembert's and Chandler's deals reported at many different levels.  Reid reports them as 6/$64 and 6/$63 respectively, which is a little higher than I usually see for Dalembert, and about right for Chandler.  These discrepancies may stem from performance incentives, but I'm not sure.  At any rate, the deals are generally reported as greater than the $10M per year average the Clippers offered Kaman.)

Here's the problem with citing these two contracts in your negotiation.  It's roughly equivalent to me going to Universal and saying "Give me $200M to make "Waterworld 2 - the Wetter the Better" because you gave Costner $200M."  Using a consensus DISASTER as your starting point may not be the way you want to go.

Tyson Chandler averaged 8 points and 9.7 rebounds in 04-05, signed his $60M+ contract in September of 05, averaged 5.3 and 9 last season, and was traded for a 37 year old in the final year of his contract in July.  Oh, and this was after the Bulls paid another $60M to a 32 year old to play Chandler's position.  "C'mon, pay me what the Bulls paid Chandler.  You won't regret it (even though they did).  Besides, if it doesn't work out you can always try to trade me for an expiring contract."

Tyson Chandler Samuel Dalembert averaged 8.2 points and 7.5 rebounds in 04-05, signed his $60M+ contract in August of 05, and averaged 7.3 and 8.2 in 05-06.  Meanwhile, the Sixers have the second highest payroll in the NBA, and won 38 games last year, giving them the second worst "Wins per dollar" ratio in the league.  "C'mon, pay me what the Sixers paid Dalembert.  You won't regret it (even though they did).  Just because Billy King ran that franchise into the ground, you shouldn't let that influence you."

Of course, the point that Kaman's making is, "This is the going rate.  My numbers are better than those guys, and so somebody is going to pay me more."  But by citing obviously regrettable deals, he's allowing the Clippers to answer by simply saying "Well, we're not that stupid".  He'd be better off citing Nene's 6/$60M deal from this summer.  Young centers are usually paid for their potential - better to refer to a guy whose still ALL potential than to remind of us of guys who got paid and then regressed.

There's a particularly interesting line in Reid's piece: "With Kaman at $11 million [per year], the Clippers might have to make a trade to avoid paying the tax.  Of course, that's not Kaman's problem."  Well, it kind of is Kaman's problem.  Everyone wants more money, but players also like to play on winning teams.  Would Kaman accept 10% less money, if it meant the Clippers would remain competitive for the foreseeable future?  Should he?  He's repeatedly referred to his positive relationship with Mike Dunleavy and assistant coach Kim Hughes.  Here's his chance to prove that money isn't everything.  Isn't the chance to play for the right people, in the right situation, with a bright future for the franchise, more important than another $5M or $10M when you're already making more money than you can spend on buckshot and video games?

Then there's the question of who would be able to pay Kaman the $11M per year or more he is seeking.  The guy will be a restricted free agent, so the Clippers will have the right to match any offer he receives.  According to Chad Ford, maybe 5 teams in the NBA could have the cap space (Insider Required) to offer Kaman more than $11M per, and that's only if they decide to target Kaman and/or allow their own free agents to walk.  Does Kaman want to play in Charlotte?  Is Orlando going to make him a big offer when they've already got Dwight Howard, Darko Milicic and the rights to 7 foot Spaniard Fran Vazquez, the 11th pick in the 2005 draft?  Milwaukee (Bogut and Villanueva)?  Seattle (if they let Rashard Lewis go)?  The Hornets (if they let David West go)?  Meanwhile, if the Clippers have the choice of offering up $11M per to get the deal done now, or matching an offer at $11M per next year, which do you think they'd take?  The only way they lose this game is if someone offers MORE than $11M per next summer.  It could happen, but it doesn't seem likely.  And if he does get a $12M+ offer from someone, let him walk and we'll start MBFGC next season.  We'll have enough money left over to sign another free agent for the mid-level.

Let's just hope that everyone can remain friends through this negotiation.  It is a business, and happily the Clippers did not make an insulting offer to Kaman.  (Unlike what is happening in Dallas, where the Mavs reportedly offered Josh Howard around 5/$25M.  Ouch.  Second best player on the Western Conference Champs, and they offered him less than the mid-level.  What is Cuban thinking?)  The Clippers are in a strong position - they'll have the option of matching next summer, and they have a center in waiting in Greece.  They need to explain the offer to Chris, explain why they won't go higher, and tell him how much they want to keep him.  Then, if he decides to test the waters, tell him that's fine too.

Just because other GM's offer crazy contracts to young centers, it doesn't mean the Clippers have to. To paraphrase my mother, "If Billy King jumped off the Empire State Building, would you do it too?"

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