- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks center Chris Kaman, who spent the first eight years of his NBA career with the Los Angeles Clippers, believes his former team can go from "the worst possible franchise in the NBA and all of sports history" to one of the best.
"If (Donald) Sterling sold the team, they might be able to," Kaman said Tuesday before boarding the Mavs' team flight to Los Angeles for his first road game against his former team.
In all seriousness, Kaman believes Sterling changing his notoriously cheap ways has given the Clippers a chance to have great success. Kaman cited the construction of the Clippers' practice facility and the trade for Chris Paul, along with the free-agency acquisitions of Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford as evidence that Sterling is now willing to spend money to build a winner.
"The truth of the thing is Sterling, when I was there my first few, four to six years, he was tight with everything," said Kaman, who was part of the package the Clippers sent to the New Orleans Hornets before last season to land Paul. "He didn't want to spend the money. I think as he's getting older, he's realizing, 'Hey, I don't know how much time I have left' -- or whatever it is -- 'I'm older.' You can't win in the grave.
"No, I'm serious. I think he's almost 80 years old. I think he's seeing, 'Hey, I'm getting older, I'm not getting any younger, I want to win,' so he's putting the money out. ... I think he's saying, 'Hey, I've got to spend more money. I want to get a winning franchise going.' And that's what he's done."
Paul led the Clippers to the second round of the playoffs last season, matching the franchise's most successful postseason run in 2005-06, when Kaman and fellow Mavs newcomer Elton Brand formed a formidable frontcourt duo in L.A. The Clippers are 11-6 entering Wednesday night's game against the Mavs on ESPN.
"From the worst possible franchise in the NBA and all of sports history -- that was what they got rated, one of the worst sports franchises ever -- to one of the top ones. I think that's possible," said Kaman, who signed a one-year deal with Dallas and is averaging 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds this season. "They're in L.A. They've got the market. They've got the sponsors. They've got the people. They've got the fans. They're getting the players. It's getting there."
Kaman calls the deal that sent him to the Hornets along with guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round pick that ended up being guard Austin Rivers in exchange for Paul "an awesome trade" for the Clippers.
That deal gave the Clippers an MVP candidate to pair with young All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, whom Kaman believes is capable of developing into a superstar due to Griffin's rare athleticism and work ethic. The key for the Clippers will be keeping Paul, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, with the Mavs among the teams who hope to sign him.
"You see since they picked him up, all the guys wanted to be there," Kaman said. "Before, nobody wanted to be there."
3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann