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More thoughts on the Camby trade...

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I've often wondered what it would have been like to have sports blogs during the era when Bernie Bickerstaff was running our Denver Nuggets. Can you imagine the fan outrage voiced here or on other Nuggets-related blogs when in one summer Bernie allowed All-Star center Dikembe Mutombo to depart for nothing and traded away the 10th pick in the draft (which could have turned into Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash or Jermaine O'Neal) and Jalen Rose for the 18th pick and drafted a no-name Greek bust named Efthimious Rentzias whom Bernie later admitted to never seeing play in person?

12 summers later, we as Nuggets fans - whose season ticket prices have been raised 10% - are getting screwed again and must speak out against the atrocious maneuvers taking place within the organization we pay to support. In just a few weeks, the Nuggets have passed on participating in a deep NBA Draft, allowed one of our best hustle players in Eduardo Najera to walk without ever making an offer and have now traded the team's only defensive presence, center Marcus Camby. While these latest moves (or non-moves) don't rival losing a Mutombo and Rose and getting only a Rentzias in return, they reek of the same macro problem: lack of vision and deal-making savvy at the top. Like Mr. Bickerstaff, we again seem to have small-minded people who don't understand the first thing about the salary cap or economics (kind of like the US Senators who were trying to grill Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke yesterday) running our Nuggets.

The Nuggets "brass" of Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman are already trying to sell the Camby trade as a deal that gives the team cap flexibility to make bold moves in the future. But unless a big deal to improve the team is coming soon, in reality they were just being lazy by dumping Camby for virtually nothing. When this blog (and other Denver sports columnists) advocated for a Camby trade, we assumed it would be...well...an actual @#$% trade! Not for the option to partake in a second round draft choice swap meet with the Clippers in 2010.

ESPN.com's John Hollinger has gone on record stating that the Clippers had "the market cornered and could name their price" for Camby, but that's nonsense. I was hoping to do a post this week outlining the various Camby trade options with other teams that would have netted the Nuggets - at the very least - a late first round pick and a halfway decent point guard (such as making a deal with New Jersey for a pick and Marcus Williams or with Chicago for Kirk Hinrich in exchange for Camby and possibly Linas Kleiza).

While several NBA teams are being run by innovative, "Moneyball"-type GMs using a hybrid of basketball know-how, statistical lineup breakdowns detailing the most efficient on-the-floor player combinations, international scouting and salary cap maneuverability to improve their teams, the Nuggets continue to do things the old way (like when Bickerstaff used appearances in Sports Illustrated to determine who to draft).

In 2004, when the Nuggets had salary cap flexibility and six first round draft picks over two years, former GM Kiki Vandeweghe panicked by trading three of those picks to New Jersey for Kenyon Martin and signing the undersized power forward with no shooting touch and suspect character to a maximum deal. When that didn't work and Kiki was ousted for UNLV and Portland Jailblazer castoff Mark Warkentien, "Wark" set out to build an All-Star team where character, salary cap space, lineup combinations that fit together and retaining draft picks were secondary to raw talent. And now that that hasn't worked, Wark is dumping salary without maximizing the few assets (i.e. Camby and Najera) the Nuggets once had.

Mr. Warkentien, unless you have something stellar up your sleeve that none of us know about, you're officially Number One on the Stiff List!