- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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NBA teams generally don't like to telegraph their moves publicly, but it doesn't take Peyton Manning to break down film on what the Clippers are doing by trading Marcus Camby and what had become one of the most desirable expiring contracts in the league to Portland on Tuesday.
The Clippers are going all in for the summer of 2010.
They still must make a couple of smaller moves to clear enough room to make a max offer to one of this summer's long-coveted free agents, but now that they've traded Camby, they've essentially committed to this path.
At first glance, swapping Camby's $9.15 million expiring deal for Steve Blake ($4.0 million), Travis Outlaw ($3.6 million) and $1.5 million in cash, plus the Trail Blazers picking up the $2 million in incentives Camby is owed, seems like a wash.
Why trade one expiring deal for two others?
According to league sources with knowledge of the Clippers' thinking, the decision was pretty much made once the team obviously faded from playoff contention by losing eight of its past nine games.
Had the Clippers remained in the playoff hunt, Camby likely would still be a member of the team. Once they faded, there wasn't much sense in keeping a 35-year-old center for the final 27 games of the season and, more importantly, his $13.7 cap hold on the books for the summer.
Los Angeles Clippers
Trading Camby now opens up playing time for second-year center DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers also like the idea of adding the athletic Outlaw to the mix, believing he will mesh well with the up-tempo style the team has gone to since Mike Dunleavy stepped down as coach two weeks ago.
The hard part about the deal was saying goodbye to Camby, who quickly became a locker-room leader and favorite of team management. The team thought so highly of Camby, sources said, that it tried to keep him and his agent in the loop on this deal so as not to upset him the way the Nuggets did two summers ago when they shocked him with a trade to the Clippers.
"We loved Marcus in the two years he played for us and hope he has success with Portland if they make the playoffs this season," Clippers general manager Mike Dunleavy said.
"We made this deal because we could add Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw, who we like a lot, while maintaining our salary-cap flexibility for this summer. This move also frees up significant playing time for DeAndre Jordan and Craig Smith."
Camby had publicly expressed a desire to stay in Los Angeles, going so far as to say he wanted to finish his career here. That door is still open, at least as far as the Clippers are concerned.
To clear enough salary to make a run at a top free agent this summer, however, the Clippers still need to make a couple more deals. Third-year small forward Al Thornton (owed $2.8 million in 2010-11) and reserve point guard Sebastian Telfair (owed $2.7 million in 2010-11) are the most likely candidates.
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
12hMarc Stein and Calvin Watkins