Clips' Camby decision just got tougher

By Marc Stein

On top of all the questions about Blake Griffin's future that will be raised by Wednesday's announcement that last June's No. 1 overall pick must undergo season-ending knee surgery, there is another Griffin-related matter confronting the Clippers as the Feb. 18 trading deadline approaches.

What to do with Marcus Camby?

The Clippers have maintained internally that Camby's $9,150,000 million expiring contract is the most attractive expiring contract in the league because the 35-year-old is still so effective and because so many contending teams -- such as Dallas, San Antonio, Denver and Portland -- have either chased him hard in the past or want another big man for the postseason.

The Clips, though, have resisted all trade interest in Camby to date -- most recently from Washington and a potential Caron Butler-for-Camby swap -- in part because they wanted to get a firm read on the timetable for Griffin's comeback as well a look at Griffin and Camby playing together before making such a big decision. So much for the latter luxury.

One source with knowledge of the Clippers' thinking said Wednesday that knowing now that Griffin is not coming back this season makes it more likely that L.A. keeps Camby for the rest of the season to continue his frontcourt partnership with Chris Kaman and rely on Camby to fill the Griffin void.

Yet you can be sure that teams will keep calling the Clips to test their determination to keep Camby . . . just like last season. It emerged after the deadline passed last February that both Portland and San Antonio engaged in serious Camby talks with the Clips on deadline day before L.A. ultimately walked away from both offers.

As long as the Clips continue their rebound from the November lows that threatened coach Mike Dunleavy's job and stay in the Western Conference playoff race, their case for keeping Camby grows. If the Clips start to slip out of contention as the deadline nears, cashing in on that valuable expiring deal is bound to get harder and harder to resist.