Clippers expected to buyout Jason Hart

I just got a tip from my good friend Chris Tomasson of what used to be known as the Rocky Mountain News (it published its final edition Friday) that the Nuggets are expected to sign Clippers guard Jason Hart once he clears waivers on Tuesday.

The Clippers would not confirm that Hart is being bought out, but a team source acknowledged that it was in the process of being completed.

Just for some background, Tomasson is one of the best NBA beat writers around and has been for a number of years, dating back to his days covering the Cavs. All of us are still in a bit of shock that the Rocky is out of commission. The news came down suddenly Thursday. But keep an eye on Chris’ posts on various Denver-based sites over the next couple of weeks until some other fortunate paper snaps him up.

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Phil Jackson praises OKC, but worries it could become the Clippers

Lakers coach Phil Jackson doesn’t often take shots at the Clippers. Frankly, he’s got plenty of good targets on his own team to worry about using the media to motivate the Clippers… But since the Lakers had an off day in Oklahoma City before Tuesday’s game against the Thunder, and there’s not much else to talk about during an off day in Oklahoma City, he had a little fun at the expense of the Clippers.

Our Lakers beat reporter, Elliott Teaford, said Jackson was asked if Oklahoma City reminded him of any team he coached early in his career. He answered: “I’m not going to say the Bulls. I’m not gonna compare them to that. But what I don’t want to see is them remind me of the Clippers, who had a lot of draft picks over the years. Then you get all these young kids together and they can’t function because of the pecking order that has to be established.”

Jackson then went on to praise the Thunder for how well it seems to be playing together.

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Admit it, you assumed the Clippers were sellers, right?

In this trade market there were buyers and there were salary-dumpers (sellers). For the right mix of young (cheap) players, draft picks and expiring contracts real talent could be had if the buyer was willing to take on a long, expensive contract.

Teams could be placed into three categories: those that are trying to win now, those that think they can win later, and those just hoping to make payroll next month.

All along, probably because of past history, a lot of people assumed the Clippers would be sellers as the trade deadline neared. Which meant, of course, that any player with talent and a hefty contract, heard his name pop up in trade talks.

In the end, it turns out that those assumptions were wrong. If anything, the Clippers have been buyers this season, acquiring Marcus Camby from luxury-tax strapped Denver over the summer; acquiring Zach Randolph from the Knicks for two contracts that expired before the Summer of LeBron; getting other teams to trade them players and cash for conditional future second-round draft picks (they’ll likely never see), thus getting free looks at some young players who might ultimately help them; and sitting back while other teams played their entire hand trying to get the Clips to part with valuable assets like Camby, Chris Kaman and Baron Davis.

That’s information that can be used later on, like this summer, when I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the trade discussions that died in the last few days, resurface.

At that point, the Clippers will presumably have seen how Camby, Zach Randolph and Chris Kaman fit together. I say presumably because that assumes all three will be healthy at the same time, at some point in the next two months.

And, they’ll have more time to decide if the Baron Davis experiment is going to pan out. If it doesn’t improve by the end of the year, don’t be surprised if trade talks come back up over the summer.

In the final few days before this trade deadline passed, the Clippers entertained some intriguing offers for all three of their main assets (Baron, Camby and Kaman), all of which would’ve allowed them to dump money for the cocktail of choice for motivated sellers in the NBA: two shots of expiring deals, a couple shakes of draft picks, a dash young prospects.

They definitely listened, but never danced very long with anyone (to borrow a metaphor from GM Mike Dunleavy.)

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How the dominoes fall

If indeed the Suns are holding onto Amare Stoudemire as the latest chatter would indicate, it would be very reasonable for the offers presented to the Clippers to get quite a bit sweeter in the next couple of days as teams look to score an impact player before the trade deadline Thursday afternoon.

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Trade rumors

I don’t like to trade in the rumor-mongering world that much, or that often. But expect the Clippers name to pop up frequently in those types of stories the next few days. Basically, the Clippers have a lot of guys that a lot of teams have interest in.

My read is that the only untouchable guy on the team right now is rookie Eric Gordon, followed closely by Al Thornton, Zach Randolph and Marcus Camby.

That’s right, Marcus Camby. I’ve been repeatedly told the Clippers do not want to trade Camby. And really, why should they. Camby has a relatively inexpensive contract, has been a great team leader and is playing like an All Star.

Now, does that mean the team would never trade one of the aforementioned players? No. It means they don’t want to trade them and it would take a lot to change their minds.

Notice, however, who I did not list among the untouchables and draw your own conclusions. The best way I can explain it is that the Clippers are listening and taking calls. I wouldn’t say they are making a ton of them.

I was told, however, that if the Clippers were trying to dump Kaman’s salary, they could’ve done it in two seconds. In other words, that’s not the objective.

Their front office believes that if everyone is healthy, the team can contend for a playoff spot. Coach Dunleavy has spoken repeatedly about wanting to see how Camby, Randolph and Chris Kaman play together, which still hasn’t happened.

But this time of year, you always answer your phone.

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Clips acquire Alex Acker

The Clippers have agreed to a trade for Detroit guard Alex Acker, a former Pepperdine star.

The deal will be formally announced Monday afternoon. In order to make room for Acker on their roster, the Clippers are expected to waive reserve center Cheikh Samb, who was acquired in a trade with Denver last month.

This is yet another creative deal for the Clippers, who will receive cash considerations from the Pistons that essentially pay for Acker’s salary, and a future second round pick.

Acker is a solid player who hasn’t been able to crack Detroit’s rotation because of veterans like Rip Hamilton and Allen Iverson, and young stars like Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo ahead of him.

According to a source close to the Pistons, Acker’s contract has a team option for next year. Which means that like Samb, the Clippers will be getting a free look at a young player over the final two months of this season.

By making this trade, Detroit avoids paying the luxury tax this season.

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