Kaman will represent Germany

Times Staff Writer

Clippers center Chris Kaman could be headed to Beijing to compete in this summer’s Olympics -- as a German.

The 26-year-old Michigan native obtained German citizenship and will play for Germany’s national basketball team alongside Dallas Mavericks forward and German native Dirk Nowitzki in an Olympic qualifying tournament later this month, according to reports.

“We’ll be stronger under the baskets with Chris,” Nowitzki told the Associated Press.


Kaman, whose great-grandparents were German, first talked about playing for Germany during the winter.

Kaman, a 7-footer who played three seasons at Central Michigan, averaged 15.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.8 blocked shots and 1.9 assists last season for the Clippers -- all career bests.

But in February the injury bug bit Kaman, as it did with others on the Clippers, and the center missed 26 of the team’s last 43 games because of inflammation in his lower back and a sprained ankle.

He finished the season playing in only 56 games, the fewest of his five-year NBA career.

Last season was the first of a five-year, $52-million contract with the Clippers.

Kaman will try to help Germany’s basketball team make its first Olympic appearance since the 1992 games in Barcelona, Spain. The German team will head to Athens to participate in a qualifying event July 14 to July 20, where 12 teams will compete for three Olympic berths.

Another American who plans to play this summer in the Olympics for a foreign team is WNBA guard Becky Hammon, who grew up in South Dakota but will play on the Russian team.

Hammon, 31, plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars. But when she was overlooked by the USA women’s team she signed a contract with the club team CSKA Moscow.

Although she has no Russian ancestors, under that country’s rules Hammon was allowed to become a Russian citizen so she could play for their Olympic team.

As for Kaman, when reached Thursday at his mother’s home in Michigan, he declined to comment.

The Clippers also had no comment on his Olympic plans.