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Kaman’s Offer Emphasizes Dunleavy’s Influence

Times Staff Writer

Apparently unaware that the Clippers offered him a five-year, $50-million contract, center Chris Kaman recently made confusing comments to reporters about the organization’s commitment to him.

Coach Mike Dunleavy moved quickly to clarify things after a team official informed him of the situation, confirming that he gave a proposal to Kaman’s agent Sunday because “I have the authority to make an offer.”

The Clippers’ efforts to reach a long-term agreement with Kaman have again underscored the coach’s influence in the organization. Dunleavy joined General Manager Elgin Baylor in pushing owner Donald T. Sterling to make a major offer to Kaman. In fact, team sources said, Dunleavy told Sterling and Andy Roeser, executive vice president, to address Kaman’s situation before moving forward on his contract talks.

Dunleavy has a vision of the Clippers’ future, and Sterling, Baylor and Roeser have given him the freedom to pursue it.

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“It’s not about me, it’s really about everything we try to do to put the organization in the best position possible,” Dunleavy said Tuesday night before a 107-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center.

“We’re all on the same page, and we’re trying to do everything we can to get to where we want to be. It’s a great statement about where we are as group.”

The group has never functioned better in Sterling’s tenure as owner, sources said, largely because of the Baylor-Dunleavy relationship.

In their first three years together, the Clippers’ victory total improved each season. The Clippers had their highest victory total in California last season, set a franchise mark for road victories, made their first playoff appearance in nine seasons and won a postseason series for the first time in 30 years. They advanced to Game 7 of a Western Conference semifinals series against the Suns.

Sterling and Baylor have permitted Dunleavy to take an active role in player-personnel decisions, such as the Kaman negotiations.

In turn, Dunleavy has been Baylor’s ally, providing two unified voices in discussions with Sterling and Roeser about the team’s needs.

“Mike and I work to reach agreements on everything we do,” Baylor said. “If there’s something we decide not to do, we agree on that too. Mike likes to be involved in decisions on players and things like that, and that’s fine with me.”

Sterling’s willingness to follow Dunleavy’s preferred course on Kaman’s situation might prompt thoughts that a contract for Dunleavy is imminent, but sources said the organization is in a holding pattern awaiting Kaman’s decision. When his situation moves to the front burner, Dunleavy, who has a salary of $2.5 million, might receive a four-year offer in the $4-million range.

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Because of Dunleavy’s involvement in personnel matters, there’s a perception outside the organization that Dunleavy has more authority than Baylor, but Dunleavy said that’s incorrect.

“I don’t care what anybody thinks, Elgin is the general manager,” Dunleavy said. “It’s just wrong ... that’s what I’d tell anyone who says that.

“We get things done because we work together, but it’s up to Elgin. If he doesn’t want to do something we don’t pursue it. We find another way.”

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Power forward Elton Brand scored a game-high 24 points and was among four Clippers in double figures.... Point guard Shaun Livingston had 21 points on seven-of-nine shooting.

jason.reid@latimes.com


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