The Lakers found themselves a center, one with a familiar name to Los Angeles sports followers.
Chris Kaman agreed to a one-year, $3.2-million deal with the Lakers three days after Dwight Howard spurned them to go to Houston.
Kaman, 31, averaged only 10.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in 66 games with Dallas last season as a part-time starter.
He eats up the Lakers’ entire “mini” midlevel exception, their only free-agent tool of note this summer, which means they can offer players only minimum salaries ($1.4 million at most) to fill out the rest of their bench.
Kaman, who played for the Clippers the first eight years of his career, took a steep cut from the $8 million he made last season but would start at center if the Lakers wanted to keep Pau Gasol at power forward.
“Weird coming back [to Los Angeles], but excited,” Kaman told The Times while vacationing with his wife in Hawaii. “Just wanted to get on a solid team and see how far we can go. I could have signed for more money somewhere else but the Lakers are a good option.”
In the short run, the Lakers have a capable but injury-plagued center at a fair cost below the average NBA salary of $5.3 million. In the long run, his contract will not affect their enormous salary-cap room after next season (an estimated $50 million to spend toward the 2014-15 season).
But Kaman has played in only 63% of his teams’ games the last three seasons. He missed 10 games last season because of a concussion.
With Kaman in the fold, the Lakers have nine players under contract for a total of $81.6 million, including Metta World Peace, whom they can waive via the one-time amnesty provision.
In fact, Kobe Bryant seemed to fear for the worst.
“This is a tough day for Laker nation,” he said Monday on Twitter, reminding his 3 million followers that World Peace was a key part in the Lakers’ Game 7 victory over Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals.
“Personally I’d keep Metta and make a run with the unit we have and just add a few pieces,” Bryant added, along with the hash tags “Keep the peace” and “Lakers still deciding.”
The Lakers couldn’t actually waive World Peace until a one-week period that would begin Wednesday, and they would have to still pay his $7.7-million salary next season, but they would save about $15 million in luxury taxes if they cut him.
The Lakers would have no small forwards on their roster if they waived World Peace, though Bryant occasionally has played the position.
World Peace, 33, actually prospered for a while in Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense but then dipped past the midpoint of the season and didn’t look strong after returning from a procedure to have knee cartilage removed.
He averaged only six points on 25% shooting in three playoff games for the Lakers. He was unable to play in Game 4 because of his knee.
Bryant also weighed in on his thoughts about Howard, three days after “unfollowing” him on Twitter last week.
“I wish d12 the best honestly,” Bryant said on Twitter. “I just find it hard to follow players that wanna kick my teams ass.”
The Lakers will try not to get kicked around next season, even if their salary-cap situation will make that difficult.
They continued to look into signing Lamar Odom, though he would be interested only if they offered more than the veteran’s minimum, which they no longer could do after agreeing to terms with Kaman.
Odom, 33, averaged four points and 5.9 rebounds for the Clippers, who were interested in having him return but then turned their attention toward Antawn Jamison.