So just how close were the Clippers to signing Josh Smith?

Said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy:

“We were ready to sign one of the free agents (Smith) to an offer sheet. I’d met with Mr. Sterling the night before to plan it out, but we told him we’re going to take one more shot at Denver.

“We let them know we were about to pull the trigger and there’s a good chance we can get this guy and this opportunity is going to go away for you. They came back and said, `they’d do it.’ I’ve got a bad knee, but I jumped pretty high after that.”

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So who’ll play where?

In case you didn’t notice, both Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby are centers. One of them will have to slide over the the power forward spot. Preliminary indications from Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy are that Camby will be playing at the 4 spot, with Kaman staying as a 5.

That’s important for defensive reasons, as Camby will have to match up with the quicker power forwards in the Western Conference –like Amare Stoudemire, Tm Duncan and Carlos Boozer– but not as important as you might think.

Basically, on most possessions, look for the Clips guards to be able to gamble like crazy on the perimeter with two 7-footers behind them protecting the middle. It’s a lot like the situation the Lakers will have to figure out, with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Those who play fantasy basketball might be intrigued by this though, as Camby will likely gain power forward eligibility.

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More on Camby

By Ramona Shelburne
Staff Writer

Well, that takes a bit of the sting out of losing Elton Brand and Corey Maggette.

The Clippers, armed with $12 million in salary cap space and fueled by the lingering burn of being spurned by Brand, traded for one of the premier defensive centers in the NBA Tuesday, acquiring Marcus Camby from the Denver Nuggets for the right to exchange second-round picks with Denver in the 2010 draft.

Denver will also receive a $10 million trade exception, which can be used for up to a year from when the trade was completed.

“I think it will definitely help us on the defensive end,” said the Clippers newest face of the franchise, Baron Davis, who was signed to a five-year, $65 million deal last week.

“He is a very skilled big guy and I think he’ll go well with Chris Kaman. I think he’ll make Kaman a better player even.”

Why would Denver trade Camby for so little?

The Nuggets had the fourth highest payroll in the league last year and were already extended well over the league’s $58.68 million salary cap and $71.15 million luxury tax threshold. Once a team is over the luxury tax threshold, they incur dollar-for-dollar luxury taxes.

Last year, Denver accrued over $13 million in luxury taxes.

Camby is due $8 million this season in salary and $2 million bonuses, meaning the trade saves Denver between $16 and $22.5 million (when you account for bonus money Camby could earn this year).

Whatever the case, the Clippers will take it.

Camby, who has two seasons left on his contract, has been one of the best defensive big men in the NBA throughout his 12 year career. He was the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, and had been selected to the All Defensive Team every year since 2004-05.

Throughout his career, Camby, 34, has been injury-prone. But last season, he played in a career high 79 games. He led the NBA in blocks (3.61) for the third straight year, scored 9.1 points a game and averaged a career-high 13.1 rebounds a game.

In making the trade for Camby, the Clippers effectively ruled themselves out of the Josh Smith sweepstakes. According to a league source, the Clippers loved Smith and were close to making him an offer sheet. Very close.

But Smith is a restricted free agent, meaning Atlanta would’ve had seven days to match the offer and in the end, the Clippers didn’t want to take that chance.

It helped that Camby was available.

“I love this acquisition for the current make up of our team,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “We are getting a consummate pro who is maybe the best team defender in the league.”
!bold!Also:!off! The Clippers officially signed second-round draft picks DeAndre Jordan and Mike Taylor. During the Clippers three summer league games, Jordan has averaged 8.3 points on 10-of-13 shooting, while Taylor, the first player ever drafted from the D-League, has averaged 10.7 points a game on 11-for-28 shooting.

““I’m excited,” said Jordan, who had been projected as lottery pick out of high school, but slipped to the second round of the draft after a tepid freshman season at Texas A&M. “I’m going to take this (slight) and use it as motivation to prove people wrong.

“I’m going to do whatever I need to do to make it, whatever they ask me to do. If they ask me to wipe up the floor, I’ll do that.”

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Where the Hawks stand

Just wanted to link up some interesting information from my colleague in Atlanta, Sekou Smith, regarding where the Hawks stand as far as matching offers for forward Josh Smith, a restricted free agent whom the Clippers have interest in.

DOUBLETALK?: The standard line Hawks since last October has been that they’ll match any offers from other teams to both Smith and Childress. And up until now we haven’t had any reason to do anything but take them at their word.

But a few of the NBA veterans in Tunica over the weekend warned me not to believe that hype.

“That’s what everybody says until an offer sheet hits the table,” one guy said during an informal meeting of the minds on all things NBA. “And any good general manager keeps his options open no matter what. That’s the only way to keep from being blindsided.”

That conversation prompted me to dial up an executive from another team and ask if he believed the Hawks would stay true to their word and match offers no matter what and shun sign-and-trade offers for Smith and Childress.

And that’s when he hit me with a left hook I just didn’t see coming.

“Not only will they consider a sign-and-trade for Smith, I know that they’ve talked with one team in particular about the potential of a sign-and-trade if things get out of hand,” he said. “I also know that they’ve turned away a couple of other teams that called interested in sign-and-trades for Smith; turned them away without so much as discussing the idea conceptually. But the longer this thing drags out the more likely things could change. You remember how things played out with Joe Johnson. The Suns swore they would match and that they wanted to keep him and then when they saw the price tag Atlanta was willing to pay they negotiated a sign-and-trade. Just because you reserve the right to match doesn’t mean you will. That’s just the way the business works.”

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Maggette has Brand’s back

I just published a story with comments from Corey Maggette on what’s now being known as the Elton Brand affair

Basically, Maggette called up today, totally unprompted and wanted to stick his neck out there for EB. This is big on two fronts. One, it’s well known they didn’t exactly get along on the court that well. So it was pretty interesting that Corey cared enough to publicly defend Elton. Two, he really didn’t have to. Maggette is off in Oakland now, with a nice new $50 million contract. He easily could’ve just taken the money and ran off quietly.

But he basically said that it was making him upset to see Elton Brand take so much flack. The sense I got was that Corey felt like the Clippers could’ve shown him some more love in negotiations too, so he sympathized with what EB has said about feeling “disrespected.”

The comparison he kept citing was the way the Washington Wizards locked up both Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas at the beginning of the offseason.

Anyway, here’s the link:

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Randolph?

I’m told that the Clippers did indeed inquire with the Knicks about power forward Zach Randolph, but it was more of a fact-finding mission and didn’t seem to go anywhere. At least for the time being. Apparently, this happened a few days ago. The plan, right now, is to take a few days and assess the situation, then decide on Plan A, B and C

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