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There's a couple players left after today, but Chris Kaman is the last newcomer in our player preview series, and it appears he will be a crucial cog to the Mavericks this coming season.
Rick Carlisle has got some pretty strange questions in his coaching career. He coached Ron Artest and Ben Wallace, for goodness sake's. "What do you make of Kaman's fondness for killing large animals?" is probably a new one.
Chris Kaman is a Maverick, and strange questions are not the only new thing he's bringing to the Mavericks. For the first time in the history of the team, the Mavericks have a true low post threat at the center position. That's a big deal.
Rumors linking Kaman and the Mavericks have been around for years. Thanks to a German citizenship he somehow acquired, Chris played with Dirk in the 2008 Olympics, and again in the 2011 Olympic qualifiers. There's familiarity and a friendship between those two, and when coupled with some pretty legitimate basketball talent, it's a great match.
Of course, here's video, too. This is his highlights from a Eurobasket game with Dirk from 2011. He doesn't have a crazy game, but it shows a very wide array of his skills. And of course, how can you not love that German commentary?
That video really does a good job producing a "Chris Kaman sampler plate". Before it gets overlooked out of sheer excitement of having a center who can actually knock down a hook shot, take a minute to appreciate that Kaman can play some defense, too. He does not have the quickest of feet, but he can keep up with players well enough, and he is a shot blocking threat. He averages 1.5 blocks a game for his career, with a high 2.8 in 2007-08. Chris and Dirk together won't always be the prettiest defensive front court, but they can hold their own for stretches at a time.
He is also a good rebounder, at 8.3 for his career. The last couple of years he recorded 7.0 and 7.8 per game, and I would expect a number somewhere in between that from the center position this season.
Now the fun part. Chris Kaman can score the ball. Like I mentioned, his hook shot and low post footwork will be a new weapon that Rick Carlisle will get to utilize this year. Everyone has seen Dirk in the low post for years, but the type of low post offense that Chris practices is totally different. I would love nothing more than to be able to write an in-depth study of his footwork at some point in the season, where he does some of his finest work.
There's plenty of range from this faux-German, too. He can stretch a defense out to twenty feet with an accurate jumper, shooting 44.5% on long two's the past couple of seasons. The only skill the Maverick centers of recent years have had twenty feet away from the basket is setting moving picks, so having a true center with range to pair with Dirk will give Carlisle even more offensive flexibility.
Kaman isn't just another offensive cog to plug into the offense; rather, his skillset changes the way the Mavericks run their offense. For years, the Mavericks have had to hide the liability centers and deal with big men who couldn't catch and finish a ball to save their life. This year, that couldn't be further from the truth.
Carlisle's answer to that off the wall question about his new player killing animals was this:
“I’ve talked to him a little bit about that, and some people just like shooting things. I asked him what the attraction is to it, and he had a good answer. Usually in those situations, you’re in a very peaceful, beautiful place. That was an encouraging answer, and then I kind of cut the conversation off there.”
The basketball isn't generally a peaceful, beautiful place. Unless your name is Gilbert Arenas, guns never make an appearance. But Chris Kaman is a very encouraging answer to the center problem that has been troubling the Mavericks for a long time, so let's just cut the conversation there.