In Las Vegas for summer league
Now the Clippers roster is basically set, after being recipients of something else's front-office bungling for a change, and the Kings roster is basically set until further notice, with the possibility of a Ron Artest trade covering the sky as rumbling gray clouds but hardly a certainty before training camp. The Warriors remain TBA.
The Pacific Division standings on July 16: the Kings are in the basement.
It shouldn't matter -- they're rightly pointed to the long-distance returns, as in taking extra hits in the name of developing young players. But it will look bad anyway if it happens for real. It will look bad in the standings and it will look bad on the coaching resume of Reggie Theus.
The fourth-place Kings were 15 games better than the last-place Clippers last season, and now that margin is gone. The Nuggets saw to that Tuesday with a salary dump for the ages: Marcus Camby to L.A. for the right to flop second-round picks in 2010, if the L.A. pick is better. If not, no pick and one of the best defensive big men in the league will have been swapped for absolutely nothing.
Denver's move was for cap relief, just as it went for the cash the day before the draft and sold the No. 20 pick to the Bobcats. The Nuggets probably got $2-3 million and avoided the guaranteed contract. Ownership, reportedly paying $13.5 million in luxury tax for a team that bombed in the playoffs, wanted to start bailing water, so there went the chance to get better through the draft and there went Camby.
Here at summer league, news of the deal with the Clippers was greeted with looks of bewilderment and amazement. Wanting, or needing, to move Camby without taking salary back, OK. Bad basketball move, of course, but every executive camped out for hours inside the two facilities at UNLV knows the reality that fiscal decisions sometimes have to rule the moment.
But to get only a conditional second-rounder for a guy who just finished first in blocks and second in rebounding -- that's what gets everyone here. Not even a first-round pick. Badly out-negotiated by the Clippers. Ouch.
At some point, attention will turn to the big picture of the Nuggets splintered front office and the reality that many peers around the league see a muddled chain of command and are unsure which faction they'll be dealing with on which day. For now, it's the moment of the trade.
Camby and new teammate Chris Kaman are both listed as centers, but they should be able to play well together. Camby will ordinarily take the opponent's best big man on defense, power forward or center, and the two will fit on offense because neither demands the same spot on the post. No one noticed because he's a Clipper, but Kaman averaged 15.7 points and 12.7 rebounds last season.
The new lineup, with the starting bigs mostly interchangeable:
C -- Kaman, DeAndre Jordan.
PF -- Camby, Tim Thomas.
SF -- Al Thornton (12.7 points per game as a rookie), Thomas, maybe Quinton Ross re-signed as a free agent.
SG -- Eric Gordon (lottery pick) or Cuttino Mobley, maybe Ross.
PG -- Baron Davis, Brevin Knight, maybe Shaun Livingston re-signed as a free agent.
Compared to the Kings:
C -- Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes.
PF -- Mikki Moore, Jason Thompson, maybe Shareef Abdur-Rahim (pending health issues).
SF -- Ron Artest, Francisco Garcia, John Salmons.
SG -- Kevin Martin, Garcia.
PG -- Beno Udrih, Sean Singletary, maybe some Garcia.
That Clippers lineup makes up 15 games on that Kings lineup. How the Warriors fit into this will have to be addressed at a later time, after the free-agency outcomes of Monta Ellis (definitely back) and Andris Biedrins (very likely back, barring a sign-and-trade) and the question of whether Golden State does anything more with its cap room before re-signing Ellis and Biedrins. But for now, a first five of Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette, Al Harrington and Biedrins will be competitive.