Mike Dunleavy, the Clippers coach, recently lost his job. Luckily, he had a spare: general manager.
And in that role, he is being judged for trading arguably his best player -- Marcus Camby -- for a backup point guard in Steve Blake, and a small forward coming off a major injury in Travis Outlaw.
The Clippers' end of the trade has been praised as a solid and affordable way to get younger and more skilled; it has also been condemned as a cheap way to drum up some cash while dooming the season.
Dunleavy was a guest on the Fox Sports West broadcast of the Blazers vs. Clippers, and used the airtime to intimate that it's conceivable he just pulled off an amazingly lopsided trade -- because Camby could return to the Clippers as a free agent this summer.
In a phone interview from Los Angeles, Dunleavy spoke sparingly of his two new players. Instead he made clear how much he still likes Marcus Camby, and that it's a possibility the big man -- reportedly very happy in Los Angeles -- would return in the summer.
By moving Marcus we got a couple of young players that we'll have Bird rights for going into the future. We preserve our cap space as well, going into next summer. And, you know, Marcus Camby's a guy that we loved and appreciated and uh ... you know ... you never know how things are going to end up. But, uh, we're very excited about the players that we're adding to our team and what it does for us moving forward.
It's worth pointing out that it would be against League rules for a GM to have a handshake deal on a future contract, and I'm implying nothing of the sort here. But because of, for instance, the severe penalties Minnesota once paid for secret deals with Joe Smith, GMs go to trouble to avoid saying anything that might sound at all like this or that free agent has a particular destiny.
In the context of a total ban on such talk, however, Dunleavy was coy and suggestive. A Camby return is clearly on his mind, and something he encourages Clipper fans to consider. He added:
We love Marcus as a player. Everything about his game and what he does for this team. Like I said, we'll see how things go forward. Marcus is a free agent. We have a lot of cap space this summer -- and you never know how things work out.
This emphasis certainly does change a bit how the trade can be judged. Perhaps it's best to give it an incomplete for now. And if one or both of the new Clippers prove to be long term solutions at positions of need, and Camby returns, then there's no choice but to give Dunleavy an A+.