Reporting from Washington — The first call Kenyon Martin received came from former Denver Nuggets teammate Chauncey Billups, telling the 6-foot-9 power forward that the Clippers would be a nice fit. Then Clippers All-Star Chris Paul called Martin, reiterating that the Clippers would love to have his services.
This all came around the same time Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro and vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey had met with Martin to express the team’s interest.
Martin apparently was sold, because on Friday he signed a one-year, mini mid-level contract for $2.5 million to play for the Clippers.
Del Negro said Martin will provide the Clippers with quality depth in the frontcourt off the bench to help out All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, center DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Evans.
Del Negro said the plan was for Martin to to join the team in Orlando by Sunday or Monday.
Del Negro said he didn’t think Martin would play in a game with the Clippers for a few days. When he does, Del Negro said, Martin will be the third big man on the team.
“He’s a pro and I think he’s going to fit in perfect for us,” Del Negro said on the team’s plane Friday before the Clippers flew to Washington to start a six-game trip that begins against the Wizards on Saturday.
“I’ve talked to him a lot and kind of explained everything and he’s very comfortable with the situation. Now we’ve just got to get him in here and figure things out as we go forward.”
Martin averaged 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds with the Nuggets last season in 48 games, but he averaged 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds over his 11-year NBA career in New Jersey and Denver.
Martin recently played for the Xinjiang Tigers in China before he left the team in December. He had been required to wait until their season was over before he could join any NBA team. But he was cleared to return to the NBA on Thursday by FIBA, the international basketball federation.
The Clippers won Martin’s services over the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks.
It helped that Martin has a home in Los Angeles, that the Clippers were willing to provide him with the playing time that he sought and that Billups and Paul sold him on the Clippers.
“Kenyon gives us another dimension,” Del Negro said. “He gives us some more depth up front, which we needed.”
Griffin to skip dunk contest?
Griffin dunked over a car (or, really, the hood of a car) to win the NBA slam dunk contest last year. So how will the reigning champion top it during this year’s All-Star weekend in Orlando?
He (probably) won’t.
After his team’s 112-91 loss to Denver on Thursday, Griffin said he didn’t plan on being in the dunk contest and that the event wasn’t “my thing.” He added that he’d like to just sit back and enjoy watching it.
Of course, word that the reigning champion will miss the dunk contest is somewhat deflating news, especially considering his recent highlight dunk over Kendrick Perkins.
But remember: Griffin, who was voted as a starter for the Western Conference All-Star team on Thursday, didn’t say he certainly wouldn’t enter the contest. What did he say? “I’m not sure.”
Times staff writer Baxter Holmes contributed to this report from Los Angeles.