Source: Clippers face upheaval at center

Updated: December 11, 2011, 10:20 AM ET
By Ric Bucher | ESPN The Magazine

The Los Angeles Clippers plan to match the Golden State Warriors' offer sheet of four years and $40 million for center DeAndre Jordan, a league source said, a move that will practically force starting center Chris Kaman to seek a trade elsewhere, according to a second source.

A salary averaging $10 million annually is a breathtaking leap for a player who averaged seven points and seven rebounds last season, which was Jordan's third in the NBA -- for which he made less than $900,000.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Jordan
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireThe Clippers plan to match the Warriors' offer sheet of four years and $40 million for center DeAndre Jordan, a league source said.

It's also an extraordinary expenditure by normally tight-fisted owner Donald Sterling for a second-round draft pick.

But there are several reasons why keeping Jordan, listed as 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds, is money well spent at any price.

For one, he is good friends with the team's young cornerstone power forward Blake Griffin.

But sources also say New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul's interest in potentially being traded to the Clippers stems, in part, from the prospect of playing with Jordan, who is a younger, stronger version of Tyson Chandler, with whom Paul played for three seasons in New Orleans before Chandler was dealt in 2009 to the Charlotte Bobcats.

Letting Jordan go would impair the franchise's chances of keeping Griffin, who is still on his rookie contract, and landing Paul, who is once more on the market after the Lakers, Houston Rockets and Hornets failed to complete a proposed deal that would've sent Paul to the Lakers.

"That's a lot of money for a guy who hasn't really proved anything yet, but it's cheaper than what losing Blake Griffin would do to their fan base," one league executive said.

A source said when Paul made his decision last week he wanted to be dealt to the Lakers, the Clippers had finished a very strong second among his suitors, which also included the Boston Celtics and the Warriors.

Jordan's playing time and role are sure to expand to justify his eight-figure salary and that means a reduced role for Kaman, who will be a free agent next summer.

His chances of landing another contract close in value to the five-year, $52.5 million deal set to expire will depend on proving he's still a starting center with All-Star potential and he's not likely to get that chance in Los Angeles if Jordan is retained.

Injuries limited Kaman to 32 games last season, but in 2009-10 he stayed healthy and averaged 18.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots in 76 games, earning him his first All-Star selection.

Teams who already have expressed an interest in Kaman, according to a league source, include the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz.

Ric Bucher is a senior NBA writer for ESPN The Magazine.

Ric Bucher

NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer

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