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Maggette says proof will be in playing

Times Staff Writer

Clippers swingman Corey Maggette says he has something to prove.

Maggette is in his eighth season in the NBA, he has twice averaged more than 20 points a game and is considered among the league’s best players at getting to the free-throw line, but his standing on the Clippers isn’t as high as it once was.

Limited to 32 games last season because of foot, hamstring and back injuries, Maggette might be a part-time starter this season and, barring injuries to others, average fewer minutes than in his previous four seasons.

That’s not the best situation for a proud veteran, but Maggette has embraced the challenge, saying he would let his performance do the talking.

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“The biggest thing is just trying to believe in my own ability,” said Maggette, who suffered a sprained right ankle in practice Monday and is listed as day to day.

“When you do that, and you go out there and work hard, people should notice. If we have to compete for positions every year, I know I’ll be the guy who worked the hardest and the guy who’s going to be in shape. You’ve got to earn respect, especially with this team.”

Maggette is respected for his conditioning and his determination for rehabilitation after injuries, teammates said. He declined to undergo season-ending foot surgery last season, returning to help the Clippers advance to Game 7 of a Western Conference semifinal series against the Phoenix Suns.

Maggette averaged 17.8 points in the regular season and 17 in the first-round playoff victory over the Denver Nuggets. He averaged 14 points and 8.3 rebounds against the Suns.

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He was the team’s leading scorer in the 2004-05 season, averaging personal bests at 22.2 points and 36.9 minutes. The Clippers, however, have improved since then and must “lead with our defense to get to where we want to be,” Coach Mike Dunleavy said.

Point guard Shaun Livingston and swingman Quinton Ross are considered better on defense than Maggette, whose minutes could decrease if the roles of Livingston and Ross increase as expected.

Maggette’s minutes and scoring average had increased in each NBA season until the last one. This fall he started in five of the team’s eight exhibition games and averaged 27.5 minutes and 13.3 points.

“My goal is to just do what I do, play hard and score the basketball, and that’s always going to be my mind-set,” Maggette said. “Before I got hurt last year, I was averaging 22.5, so the only reason I didn’t reach that was because I didn’t play.

“I know what I can do ... everybody else knows what I can do. But sometimes you have to keep proving that to people. I just take it in stride and have a positive attitude every day I go to work. I’m going to show I can help this team win.”

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Center Chris Kaman (strained left hamstring) participated in practice and is expected to play in the opener Wednesday in Phoenix against the Suns, Dunleavy said. ... Power forward Elton Brand sat out because of flu-like symptoms, a team spokesman said.

jason.reid@latimes.com

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