Futures of Kaman, Dunleavy Could Be Intertwined

Times Staff Writer

The Clippers’ level of commitment to center Chris Kaman could help determine whether Coach Mike Dunleavy returns next season.

Dunleavy, in the final year of his contract, has strongly recommended that the Clippers offer the 7-foot Kaman a multiyear extension this season, hoping to retain a player Dunleavy said he considers integral to the team’s long-term success.

Although Dunleavy declined to comment on whether he would sign an extension if the Clippers rejected his recommendation, team sources said retaining Kaman is Dunleavy’s top priority.


Apparently, the feeling is mutual.

Dunleavy remaining in his role is “one of the most important things for me,” Kaman said after practice Tuesday at Santa Barbara City College. “To have Coach Dunleavy here ... it’s definitely big.”

Last season, Kaman, 24, had personal-best averages of 11.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.38 blocked shots. The team’s 2003 first-round draft pick (sixth overall) has increased his averages each season under Dunleavy.

Kaman has a salary of almost $3.5 million for this season, and the Clippers could match any offer he received from another team next summer. If Kaman signed a one-year contract with the Clippers, he could become an unrestricted free agent after the 2007-08 season.

Based on recent contracts signed by centers with comparable statistics, Kaman could receive as much as $9 million to $12 million per season.

“I’m not going to worry about it,” Kaman said. “I don’t want to have that in my head while I’m playing the season. I just want to keep working hard, trying to improve and helping the team win.”

Kaman credited Dunleavy and assistant coach Kim Hughes with much of his improvement in three seasons, and he said their continued presence would be a plus for the Clippers.


“I know I can’t keep Kim here forever,” Kaman said. “I don’t want to speak for him, but he probably wants to be a head coach one day.

“He has to do his thing, and I would understand that, but it would be nice to have him and Dunleavy here. I guess we’ll just have to see. It’ll be interesting.”


Backup center Zeljko Rebraca, sidelined most of last season because of heart and conditioning problems, remained in Los Angeles to receive back treatment. He did not accompany the team on its recent trip to Russia.... Forward Tim Thomas (sore lower back) sat out practice at Santa Barbara City College.