- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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Every time it hurts. He knows it shouldn't, that he should expect it, that the NBA is a business and that as one of the top defensive centers in the league his services are widely coveted.
But for a guy who has made a name blocking shots, Marcus Camby has always had a hard time with rejection. This last time, when the Clippers dealt him to Portland at the trade deadline in mid-February, was no different.
He was settled here with a nice place in Marina Del Rey, taking his two daughters to school every morning and tucking them in at night. Despite the Clippers' seemingly constant state of woe, he was happy and hoped to stay.
"I'm not a quitter, I was willing to stay here and try to fight it out. Try to build a winner out of this organization," Camby said Wednesday morning before his first game back in L.A. since the Feb. 17 trade. "But they had other plans and obviously I wasn't in those plans."
It didn't help matters Camby found out about the trade from his agent minutes before he was supposed to head to a team-sponsored dinner at a steakhouse in Portland. (The Clippers were to play the Trail Blazers the next night.)
"Well, basically I had been on the phone with my agent who told me there was a possibility I might get traded to Portland, it was actually when we were about to leave for the dinner," Camby said. "So I was like, 'Should I even go? What should I do?'
"But there were a lot of people going so I was like, 'I should be professional about this. I'm going to go head over to the dinner, keep me posted.'
"After that we were just hitting each other on the BlackBerry. After it went down, the first person I told was EJ [Clippers guard Eric Gordon] ... then I left, went back to the hotel and had to get ready the next day to do my press conference and physical.
"It was kind of ironic and weird."
Once Camby had some time to think about it, he began to embrace the idea of joining a playoff contender for the second half of the season.
His teammates in L.A. had a decidedly different reaction, though.
"Just seeing the reactions from Chris [Kaman] and BD [Baron Davis], I could see how disappointed they were," Camby said. "When they heard I was traded, they were like in shock also.
"What they may have thought was like, 'The season is probably over. We just traded our best defensive player, our best rebounder and captain.' So they were pretty much all in shock."
Whether that was the symbolic message of the trade or not, the results have made it so. The Clippers are 6-19 since trading Camby and have fallen to 12th place in the Western Conference, though it should be noted they also traded Al Thornton and Sebastian Telfair two days later in separate deadline deals.
Taken all together, those deals have worked out well for everyone involved. Camby joined a playoff contender that desperately needed his services and the Clippers cleared enough room under next season's salary cap to make a run at an elite free agent this summer.
What's hard to figure is how Camby could go from one team dealing with too many injuries to another but gain so many games in the standings.
"That's a tough question to answer. I've been on both sides of the table. Those guys in L.A. I know they worked extremely hard," Camby said. "I was right there with them, despite our record, despite guys going down, guys were still putting in the effort.
"In Portland's situation, I think maybe they were more used to playing without [Greg] Oden, to playing without Brandon [Roy] and [Nicolas] Batum and also the head coach [Nate McMillan] has a torn Achilles. So they've been dealing with a lot of adversity up here.
"It's also because up here, the Trail Blazers are the toast of the town, there's really no other [pro] sports teams to focus on, so the crowd and the environment here at the arena gives those guys a big, big advantage.
"Here in L.A., there's USC, UCLA, Manny, Kobe, Pau, the Kings. There's so much going on in the city. Up here in Portland it's just all about basketball. We're the first, second and third options up there. I think that plays a little bit into it."
Though he says he loves his new teammates and the city "that's embracing me like I've been there my whole career," the hardest part of being traded, as always, is the disruption to the roots he put down.
There are some guys in professional sports who accept trades as easily as they do seat assignments on a plane. Aisle, window, whatever. As long as it's not the middle.
Camby has never been one of them.
He has been away from his wife, Eva, and two daughters for about six weeks now because it would be too disruptive to take them out of school in the middle of the year.
"It's really tough leaving a house full of women by themselves when I'm supposed to be the man of the house," he said. "You never want to see your daughters getting raised up without a male figure around for any extended period of time.
"So from that aspect it's been definitely tough being away from them, being away from the routine of seeing them go off to school in the morning, being there when they get home from school. You miss all the little things of your kids growing up.
"I used to take them to school, then I'd go straight to practice. Then I'd come home, wait for them to get home from school, do homework with them, play with them, then go over to the game or if there is no game, give them a bath and put them to bed. That was our normal routine."
He got to do all that Wednesday since the Blazers flew into town Tuesday night, but it's not the same as being there all the time.
This is the fourth time in his 14-year NBA career he has been traded, but the first time it has come in the middle of a season. This way is tougher.
"It never really gets easier, you just get more understanding of the business of the NBA," Camby said. "It's very rare that you stay with one team throughout your entire career, it's mostly guys like Kobe and Tim Duncan that are mainstays with one organization their whole careers, so it happens and it's all about how you adjust."
Like it or not, another change looms. Camby will be a free agent after the season and his name is constantly linked -- as it was at the trade deadline -- to teams such as the Clippers, Knicks, Thunder and Rockets who will have space under the salary cap to sign him.
Though he says he would love to return to Portland, he's not ruling anything out just yet. Even a return to L.A.
"I'm not burning any bridges. My time here was great," Camby said. "I thought [former coach and general manager] Mike [Dunleavy] and [current GM] Neil [Olshey] and those guys were great to me during my year and a half here, and I definitely wish them well.
"Come July 1 we'll see how it plays out. Seems like every arena I go in, people are talking about what I'm going to do on July 1. ... I have a lot of options, and it feels good to be wanted."
It's probably never going to happen, but maybe someday he'll look at being traded that way.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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