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CLIPPERS

Kaman shows worth through his absence

Clippers lose the four games he missed with a sore back, and win upon his return. His coach and teammates say he's proved he belongs in All-Star game.

January 20, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

Chris Kaman's value took a nice little upturn and kept on soaring last week.

And he didn't have to do a thing.

Soaring because of a sore back.

Kaman missed four straight games -- the Clippers lost them all -- and they finally won when he returned to the lineup Monday.

"Well, some people may look at it, 'Hey, it was New Jersey,' " teammate Marcus Camby said, joking about the Monday win, on Tuesday after practice.

The Clippers (18-22) stopped the slide and are inching back toward the so-far elusive .500 mark. If they get there, or even come close, it could greatly enhance Kaman's All-Star chances.

"Even around .500 is good. He showed his value a little bit by being out as well," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "People are looking at it the other way, 'What's his contribution to the team?' He brings that stability to our game that we can get it either through a post-up or a pick-and-roll with him."

The All-Star game will be Feb. 14 in Dallas, and Amare Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns is the leading vote-getter among the centers in the Western Conference. Kaman, who is averaging 20.4 points and 9.3 rebounds, isn't on the ballot, but that's another story.

TNT will have the announcement of the starters Thursday night -- the Clippers are in Denver that night -- and the remaining All-Stars (voted on by the coaches) will be released Jan. 28.

The fact that the coaches will be doing the voting could help Kaman, given that the technicians appreciate the finer points of his game. It goes beyond the raw numbers and the simple fact he has scored 20 or more points in 13 of his last 14 games.

"Most of the time they're looking critically at film," Dunleavy said. "They're going to have a better feel and knowledge for what he's doing right out there as far as what he does defensively between blocking shots or being in the right position on [defensive] rotations."

Camby agreed.

"He won't get a lot of fan votes but if you ask all the coaches around the league they'll all definitely go out there and give him his due," Camby said. "He's been having a phenomenal season for us. He's been like our go-to guy basically. Just his versatility he possesses out there on the offensive end, inside, outside, knocking down shots."

Second-team status in Los Angeles hasn't helped in the voting, of course.

"In my opinion, he's the best center out there in the game right now," Camby said. "No one gets to see him. Like I said, him being a Clipper, a lot of people don't really associate us with having a lot of good players on this team. He's been our best player this year -- by far."

Etc.

Baron Davis (sick) didn't practice Tuesday, but small forward Al Thornton (sprained ankle) is making progress and is listed as probable for tonight's game against the Chicago Bulls. Thornton's best series of games this season came in late November and early December.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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