July 16, 2008 1:38 AM
Nets couldn't offer 'enough of nothing' to get Camby
By Chris Tomasson
It sounds like a comedy routine.
Imagine an auction going backward.
"Do I hear $10 million?''
"OK, do I hear $9 million?''
"What about $8 million?''
You get the point. And winner of this auction was the Los Angeles Clippers.
"We bid nothing,''
The New Jersey Nets also were interested in trading for Marcus Camby, who was dealt to the Clippers on Tuesday. But the Nets, without room under the salary cap, were not able to bid low enough to get him in a salary-cap dump.
"Kiki really wanted Marcus,'' said Camby's agent, Rick Kaplan, referring to New Jersey general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, the general manager in Denver when the Nuggets traded for Camby in June 2002. "But he didn't have enough of nothing to give.''
For Camby, whose salary-cap number next season is $10 million, the Nuggets received the right to trade 2010 second-round picks with the Clippers. So, if the Nuggets end up having a better second-round pick that year than the Clippers, Los Angeles gives up nothing for Camby.
Even if the teams do trade second-rounders, that's hardly much of a price for the center on the NBA All-Defensive team the past two seasons.
The Nets could have given the Nuggets a non-guaranteed $3.3 million contract in Keith Van Horn, and then Van Horn would have been waived. But they would have had to package Van Horn with players making actual salaries.
Names thrown around were center Josh Boone and point guard Marcus Williams. There was even talk the Nuggets could have had Nenad Krstic in a sign-and-trade.
But the Nuggets didn't want salaries. The wanted give away Camby thanks to word coming from owner Stan Kroenke that he wants the team to trim salary.
Sure, the Nuggets would have rather dumped Kenyon Martin or Nene, but nobody wants either. And they weren't going to part with Carmelo Anthony.
The Rocky Mountain News had reported shortly after the season that Camby was the team's most likely big-salaried player to be traded.
So Camby, 34, goes to the Clippers. If Camby reaches his $2 million in bonuses for playing 65 or more games next season and gets a $1.25 million statistical bonus, which he got in 2006-07, then the Nuggets will save $22.5 million when one considers the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax.
"They just gave away an All-Star caliber player for nothing,'' Kaplan said.
OK, so the Nuggets did get a $10 million trade exception. When management went into spin control Tuesday night, that's what team officials were touting.
But it doesn't seem very likely the Nuggets are going to pick up a $10 million player after they just gave up one. The would put them right back where they started: Luxury-tax hell.
Before Camby was dealt, the Nuggets had nine players with guaranteed contracts totaling more than $79 million, about $8 million over the luxury tax threshold.
When one considers cap holds for remaining roster spots, the Nuggets are still over the luxury-tax threshold. But they now actually have a slim chance to get under the tax line by the start of next season.
Of course, much of that will depend on what happens with restricted free-agent J.R. Smith. If the Nuggets re-sign him, it might be hard to get under the tax threshold unless they can find another player to give away.
The $10 million trade exception, which expires a year from the Camby trade, could have its best use next July when the Nuggets could be well under the tax threshold after Allen Iverson's $20.84 million contract comes off the books.
There's even a chance the Nuggets could be under the salary cap in the summer of 2009. Then again, it remains to be seen what Smith's contract will be and how much Linas Kleiza, who will be a restricted free agent in 2009 if not re-signed by Oct. 31, will command.
Until then, the Nuggets could be in jeopardy of missing the playoffs next season. Camby was one of the few guys on the team willing to play defense. Well, there was another one. But Eduardo Najera already has bolted to New Jersey as a free agent.
"He wants to go to a team that's really committed to winning,'' Kaplan said of Camby.
There are now serious doubts the Nuggets, who could play small ball next season to make up for the loss of Camby, are such a team.
As for the Clippers, after Elton Brand opted out of his contract and bolted to Philadelphia, they were determined to find a replacement with the money they had under the cap. Word is the Clippers were close to tendering an offer sheet to Atlanta restricted free-agent Josh Smith before the Nuggets agreed to give them Camby for nothing.
So, it's no wonder the Nuggets couldn't even get a first-round pick out of the Clippers. The Clippers could have hung up the phone on the Nuggets and turned their attention to Smith, although there always was the chance Atlanta could match an offer to Smith.
"It's a great acquisition for us,'' Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, who plans to start Camby at power forward alongside Clippers center Chris Kaman, told the Rocky Mountain News. "(Camby) really complements our guys. He's one of the best all-around defenders in the league... Marcus is maybe even a better fit for us than Elton. He's coming off a great year, and Elton played just eight games last year (due to injury).''
Before the Clippers could get Camby, though, they had out outbid New Jersey. Actually, though, it turned out to be more like the limbo.
How low can you go?