February 16, 2010
Camby, already, is aware of this. In what turned into the must-read/how-pathetic column of the year, Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski detailed a scene that saw Camby storming out of a Portland-area restaurant, flustered and frustrated by the Clippers organization acting like the Clippers organization, hearing about the news from his agent well before the Clippers bothered to pick up the phone.
It makes no sense, of course, which is why it makes complete and total sense. For all the swaying toward orthodoxy that we've seen from L.A. over the last few years — signing outright free agents like Cuttino Mobley(notes), Baron Davis(notes) and Tim Thomas(notes), matching contract offers on their own free agents, staying somewhat competitive, making the playoffs, albeit all the way back when Donald Rumsfeld still had a public gig — the Clippers are still the Clippers. They're still a punchline at 11:42, no matter the host.
And this trade is pure Clippers madness, even before the news hit about the tactless way that Camby was informed.
Clippers GM and former Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy loves Camby. Digs him as a person, wanted nothing to do with tossing him off his day-to-day roster while coaching him. Camby was one of the few guys, probably the only guy, who got it. Listened and tried to execute offensively, settled down and worked things out defensively. Dunleavy appreciated the way Camby worked for him, and Camby thought it obvious that the guy that heaped such effusive praise upon him would keep him and his family in Orange County for the duration and beyond the expiration of his contract.
Despite a few accolades, Camby had a bad defensive rep upon becoming a Clipper last season. He blocked plenty of shots and hauled in the rebounds, but he could also be taken advantage of in screen-and-roll situations, on top of being loath to help on the perimeter, away from primo blocking territory.
For whatever reason, in his mid-30s and on a team that clearly cared less than any team in the NBA, Camby started roaming and protecting and hedging as he'd never done before. He was a complete defender, which meant, with his gifts, he was a dominant defender. And Dunleavy appreciated this, and wanted no part in parting with "this."
Coach Dunleavy did, at least. A few weeks ago, "coach Dunleavy" stepped aside to focus on acting as "GM Dunleavy," cutting out one of his gigs in order to save the other. And the result here is a terrible basketball trade that makes absolutely no sense in any other way beyond the ways that help Donald Sterling save money, which in turn (he hopes) will allow Dunleavy to save his job.
It's a lazy trade. The trade deadline isn't until Thursday, and the going rate for a 7-footer who can dominate on one end and hold his own on the other (to say nothing of his rather helpful expiring contract) should be through the roof. Camby should be among the most sought-after assets in this market, despite the paucity of buyers, and yet the Clippers are about to send him to Portland for something they'd already get even if Camby stuck around past the trade deadline — contracts that expire in June. And cash.
So, the cash is the difference. And the initial reaction, the glass half-full reaction, is to tell yourself that Dunleavy was doing this as a favor to Camby. Sending him to a team that needs him, working in front of a fan base that tends to win over even the most harshest of hearts, spinning its way toward the postseason despite myriad injuries. This was done with Camby's blessing, logic tells you, because why else would they switch around the deck chairs, taking on the same amount of expiring cash for Travis Outlaw (who might not play again this year) and Steve Blake?
And then you learn that Camby wanted absolutely nothing to do with being moved to Portland, or anywhere else. And then you read that the deal went down with the Clippers in Portland, and you wonder if Dunleavy was even allowed to make long-distance calls. Those things cost money, you know. And, no, the deal isn't official yet; but Camby's agent had to drop the news first, before Woj and Marc broke the story, before Marcus' text inbox started filling up, and Marcus isn't happy. And then Spears drops the line of the year:
"He is not believed to have finished his meal."
I'm sure Sterling was sure to pick up a doggy bag. After all, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato, and, baby, you got a stew going.
For the Blazers? This is huge. I wouldn't trust Juwan Howard(notes) to guard the front of the rim as a power forward in 1997, much less as a center in 2010. Nothing against the man's effort level. Howard's worked his tail off, but he's not going to help a team that was rather middling defensively last year and the year before without Greg Oden(notes). And, not sure you've heard, but the Blazers are without Greg Oden right now.
If Camby's effort level is on high — and considering his history and the trade's circumstances, this is far from a given — the Blazers could really make a run here. Marcus isn't going to move Andrew Bynum(notes) out of position or shove Nene out of the paint, but he does help. He will change shots and cover and he's the absolute best tonic (best deadline-available, tonic) I can think of for a team that badly needs help defending the paint. The Blazers had the best 1-2 center punch in the NBA heading into this season and lost both. A sickening blow, and the addition of a do-everything 7-footer with an expiring deal comes off as a needed bit of good luck.
The Clippers? There's no point to this deal. Basketball-wise, at least.
We knew Camby was gone as soon as Dunleavy retired to the front office. But for this? No prospects, no draft picks, the same amount of expiring money that Camby was going to provide had he stayed on? Just a little cash thrown Sterling's way? It's pathetic. It's so damn Clipper-y. I hate that. You should, too.
And it's only Dunleavy looking to save his gig. Essentially trading for his potential 2010-11 salary from Portland owner Paul Allen and dropping it in Sterling's lap. So stupefyingly transparent, something that could only happen in this league, and to this team.
The Blazers need a big man, and Mike Dunleavy needs to sell out. All over save the shouting. And the steak.