Clippers make attractive trade bait

At least publicly, the Clippers had managed to remain under the radar as this year's NBA trade deadline approached. But amongst NBA general managers looking to beg, borrow or deal before Thursday's noon (Pacific) deadline, the Clippers have been one of the most in-demand trading partners because of their collection of expiring contracts, attractive veterans and future first-round draft picks.

According to Clippers sources, they have approached the deadline with a basic plan: Add a piece now using expiring contracts or clear room for a top free agent over the summer.

If the Clippers decide to trade one or several of their expiring contracts now -- Marcus Camby and his $9.1 million expiring deal is among the most coveted in the league -- the team would insist the player or players they get back in return must be good enough to offset the loss of their carefully-crafted salary cap space this summer. This would enable them to pursue one of the top free agents come July 1.

Late Monday night, a Clippers source said the team was in ``substantive'' talks with Portland about a deal for Camby. ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported that the deal would bring Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw to Los Angeles.

At first glance, those "pieces" don't seem to meet the criteria Clippers sources had said they were seeking in return for such an attractive player and contract like Camby's.

Why trade one expiring contract (Camby at $9.1 million) for two other less desirable on expiring contracts in Blake ($4 million) and Outlaw ($3.6 million)?

Could there, perhaps, be subsequent moves to this deal?

Stay tuned.