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Kaman facing All-Star obstacles

Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Ask Chris Kaman if he thinks he is playing like an All-Star and the answer is short and sweet.

“Of course,” he said. “But I’m not an arrogant person. I’m not going to sit here and boast about myself, but I think I’m playing like an All-Star. But whether or not I make the All-Star team isn’t up to me.”

It’s up to the voting fans and the Western Conference coaches, and so far it looks like the fans have other centers in mind.

Yao Ming leads a crowded field of Western Conference centers, with the Suns’ Amare Stoudemire trailing him in the latest balloting released Thursday. Kaman, averaging 18.3 points and 13.8 rebounds after a disappointing 2006-07, is 10th with 66,315 votes, some seven spots behind the Dallas Mavericks’ Erick Dampier, who is averaging 4.5 points and 6.3 rebounds.

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“I think the coaches might recognize it,” Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. ". . . A lot of the fans who vote are going to vote for their home-team guys or the guys who have the most publicity. And they may not be as focused on the numbers individually and the numbers as far as Chris Kaman is concerned. But clearly the coaches will know.”

Kaman is vying to become the first Clipper other than Elton Brand on an All-Star team since Danny Manning in 1994.

But there won’t be any Kick-in Kaman campaigns. “I don’t want it because people are talking about it,” Kaman said. “I want it to be because I play good. I want it to be not about politics. If not, then I don’t want it.”

The league has taken notice of Kaman’s play, with opposing coaches regularly marveling at his growth, but it still may be tough for him to crack the West roster for the All-Star game, to be held Feb. 17 in New Orleans.

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Yao is almost a guaranteed starter because of overseas Internet voting -- a factor in the league’s decision to shift Tim Duncan from center to forward in the balloting, giving him a better chance at starting.

Stoudemire, averaging 21.2 points and 8.7 rebounds, is a strong backup candidate. And the Clippers’ poor record probably will be taken into consideration when rosters are finalized.

“The toughest thing for him is that you are trying to be an All-Star in the West,” said Suns assistant Alvin Gentry, a former Clippers coach. “You are talking about Yao Ming and Amare Stoudemire and so many other guys around.

“But right now, I think he is playing as well as any center there is in the West or the East. He is definitely having an All-Star type season.”

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jonathan.abrams@latimes.com


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