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Six days later, and Marcus Camby still can’t believe what went down.
It does seem a bit difficult to fathom.
The Los Angeles Clippers acquired Camby, the NBA’s leading shot-blocker the past three seasons, from the Denver Nuggets last Tuesday for the option to exchange second-round picks with the Clippers in 2010.
And that’s all.
“When I heard of the trade, I said, ‘Who did Denver get in return?”’ Camby said Monday at an introductory news conference.
The answer was nobody, although the Nuggets are relieved of Camby’s $10 million salary-cap figure. Trading second-round picks certainly won’t be a major development, no matter where the teams might be choosing.
“Yes,” Camby answered quickly when asked if the Nuggets gave him away.
The 12-year NBA veteran was just beginning.
“I understand this is a business,” he said. “No one said a word (about the trade), I found out from my agent.”
Camby had been in Las Vegas working out with several of his former teammates and was informed of the trade shortly thereafter, upon returning to his Houston home.
“I thought the way (the Nuggets) went about it was classless,” he said. “I thought it could have gone down a whole lot better. I’ll get over it once training camp begins when I’m around the guys. You never forget. I’m definitely looking forward to those couple games we play against Denver.
“Denver was a place my family and I really loved. It was kind of shocking. I felt I did everything possible for that team.”
And, he added, in the community as well.
Camby, a 6-foot-11, 235-pounder, averaged 9.1 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.61 blocked shots last season, his sixth with the Nuggets. He joined Dikembe Mutombo as the only player to lead the NBA in blocked shots for three straight seasons, and his four blocked shot titles are tied with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mark Eaton for the most in league history.
Camby, under contract for two more years, said the only calls he’s received from people connected with the Nuggets have been from the trainer, strength coach and several former teammates including Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and Kenyon Martin.
“They’re sad to see me go,” he said. “These guys were like brothers to me. It’s kind of sad the way things ended up. I wish those guys a lot of individual success. Losing a great defender, they’ll probably give up more points next year. That’s something they’ll have to deal with.”
The Nuggets have been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round in each of the past five years. Camby said being traded the way he was left him feeling like a scapegoat. He was the NBA defensive player of the year in the 2006-07 season and finished second behind Boston’s Kevin Garnett in the voting this season.
The 33-year-old Camby was the second big-name player to join the Clippers this month. Baron Davis left Golden State to sign a five-year, $65 million contract with his hometown team. The Clippers also signed restricted free agent Kelenna Azubuike to a three-year, $9 million offer sheet late last week.
With Elton Brand and Corey Maggette leaving as free agents, the Clippers will have a completely different look next season. Hit hard by injuries, they went 23-59 this season, two years after falling one victory shy of reaching the Western Conference finals.
“I’m excited being here,” Camby said. “We all know we have a lot of work to do. I think being here is a blessing in disguise. The pieces are in place here. Denver let it be known they didn’t want me. I always want to be in a place where I’m wanted. I’m definitely feeling the love today.
“I have nothing against the Clippers. I think they have great talent. I think last year was a fluke year, with all the injuries. It’s a new beginning for me. I’m real eager to embark on this challenge.”
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy envisions a starting lineup of Camby, Chris Kaman and Al Thornton up front with Davis and Cuttino Mobley in the backcourt.
“That gives us scoring, size, post-up defense, rebounding, everything you could hope for,” Dunleavy said. “We have a definite core and probably nine-man rotation right now that I think is a very good one.
Among the projected reserves are Azubuike, if the Warriors don’t match the offer sheet; Tim Thomas; Brevin Knight, and first-round draft pick Eric Gordon.
Dunleavy said once Brand decided to leave and the Clippers began looking at the options they might have, he targeted Camby.
“He was the first and foremost guy I wanted to get. I didn’t think it would be possible,” the coach said. “It happened quickly, it was just really great for us. I have a bad knee, but I jumped pretty high when I heard that news. I think he’s just a great fit for our team. He’s one of the best passing big men in the league, he’s just so smart.
“Who cares about the other side of the deal. We got the right side of it.”
Camby and Kaman have both been listed as centers during their respective careers.
“We’ll put the guys in interchangeable positions,” Dunleavy said.
“Chris can play (center) when we play Phoenix,” Camby said with a smile, drawing laughter from the assembled gathering. The Suns’ center is Shaquille O’Neal.