Clips' Kaman playing like All-Star
LOS ANGELES -- It looked as if a party had broken out in the Staples Center corridors Wednesday as Clippers employees dressed in cowboy outfits handed out All-Star Game ballots to every fan in sight. Behind them a huge sign read, "Vote For Your Clippers Today"! with the names
Kaman, who leads all centers with 21.7 points to go with 9.6 rebounds, was left off the All-Star ballot released this week. He was not among the 12 Western Conference centers selected to contend for a starting spot at the Feb. 14 midseason showcase in Dallas. (Another high-scoring Clipper, second-year guard
"There's a lot of politics involved. The big-name guys are always going to be there and you can't change that," said Kaman, the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week. "I mean, to be honest, I wouldn't have put myself on there after not playing many games last year."
Kaman missed a career-high 51 games last season with a left foot injury. A panel of media members put together the All-Star ballot before the season, and few could have anticipated that Kaman would bounce back with the type of production worthy of the fans' consideration as a starter -- and receive
"It's probably not going to matter," Clippers coach
While Kaman will not become the Clippers' first All-Star starter since
"I was in that mid-level range as a player and I wanted to pick up my game," said Kaman, who is ambidextrous and shoots about as many times with his right hand as he does his left in the paint. "I watched some games I struggled in and some games I played well in to see what I was doing wrong and what I was doing right. The big thing I was messing up on was some of my hooks. My right hand is a little weaker than my left hand so that was something I needed to work on. I know that I'm a post player, but I wanted to work on my face-up game a little bit. I was really working on my game."
Kaman's biggest adjustment has been to simply take an open shot or, if it's not there, to pass the ball and move around to get in better position. In the past, Kaman would often dribble one time too many or make needless moves even when he was open because he didn't have the confidence to take the same shots in games that he would make during practice.
"He's had the skill level for a long time," Dunleavy said. "He's a guy we've been trying to get to shoot the ball more, which is unusual in this league. His feeling was always that when he was open from 15-18 feet that he needed to put the ball on the floor and get closer to the basket to try to score, which is where he would always run into trouble. If you watch this guy, he's always been able to shoot left-handed threes and it's a beautiful shot. So we had to tell him, Dude, you can shoot the ball, so just shoot it."
Sometimes, however, simply shooting the ball whenever you're open doesn't work. On Wednesday, Kaman attempted a career-high 26 shots but connected on only nine, finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds in an 83-79 loss to the Thunder. Kaman, battling a cold, sat in his locker for nearly an hour after the game. He was the last player to leave as he replayed every one of his shots in his head before going home later that night to watch the game again.
"I'm not going to be a perfect player, but I want to be better," Kaman said. "Last year was so frustrating because I missed 51 games and I just got pissed watching my team lose game after game. I really wanted to help them out and I couldn't. I knew that when I came back, I was going to be a better player and really help this team get to the next level. That's the only thing that matters to me right now."