Should I stay or should I go? The Clash's 1981 hit is the Clippers' 2009 predicament.
Having travelled down a long and lonely road for years, decades, the Clippers find themselves at a fork. To the right is a road out of perennial has-been status towards the NBA elite. To the left is a road that U-turns the franchise back to where it came from.
The decision on which road to take isn't based on a single decision but on a lot of little ones. Like most forks in the road, it won't be clear which direction the Clippers went until they are well on their way down the path their decisions led them.
The Clippers have been here before and always seemed to pick the U-turn. Not just poor drafts but embarrassingly poor drafts combined with no activity in the free agent market from a team in a very desirable location always ensured the team would remain running in circles.
Things seemed to change in 2005 when the club actually signed a free agent. The five-year, $42 million dollar deal for Cuttino Mobley was an eye opener and the first sign that the franchise was ready to change its fortunes.
A great 2006 season, above average drafts, and an all out pursuit of Kobe Bryant made it obvious; this team was serious about winning. Now, come the tough part, staying on course.
Changing the fortunes of a franchise is kind of like working out. Everyone who is out of shape wants to work out, only some try to and fewer still stick with it.
Sticking with it means getting past the "wall". For those working out, the "wall" is waking up at 5am for a workout when your entire body is still sore from the last workout and your bed is way more comfy than normal. For a franchise, it's making the right decision at the right time most of the time.
A decision on Camby is being forced on the team and the right decision is crucial. Welcome to the "wall," Clippers.
Should he stay?
Ponce de la Camby has been amazing for the Clippers this year. The former Defensive Player of the Year seems rejuvenated. 11.5 rebounds per game is an eye-opener, but the 2.14 blocks leaves you wondering why you would move him.
Quality clubs like to bring youngsters around slowly. Let them mature without the pressure of having to contribute right away. It would be great to let Blake Griffin watch and learn from someone with Camby's game.
He seems to have played a stabilizing role on the defensive side as well. Defense is about desire and commitment. Camby models both, and the club is following his lead.
Camby is candid about his thoughts on staying or leaving. "That's the top priority,'' Camby said. "To come back [next season]. My family loves it out here. The kids love school out here. The weather's great."
In addition to his benefits as a player Camby's contract expires in 2010—just in time for the Clippers to be a player in the free agent market. Assuming there is someone available they might want.
Keeping this guy in L.A. seems to make sense.
Should he go?
Christmas comes early for the NBA in 2010. We have been hearing about that free agent class for years and are just a few short months away from when the bidding begins.
Teams began preparing years ago to clear cap space for 2010. Some did it in stealth mode while others, like the New York Knicks, made no bones about their plan. They intend to be a buyer come 2010.
I will be interested to see if anyone is interested in the Knickerbockers. After virtually dismantling their team for the sake of cap space, they have cap space and a very forgettable team.
Which leads me back to Camby.
Camby has that all important expiring contract. Trade for Camby and you not only get the aforementioned 11.5 and 2.14 along with the defensive leadership and an overall great player, you get to clear $9.15 million in 2010. Expiring contracts are gold nuggets. Expiring contracts for a player that can actually contribute are like multiple gold buckets filled to the brim.
"Everybody in the league would want him," Dunleavy said to Chris Tommason of FanHouse. "He's probably the most valuable contract in the league from the standpoint if you're looking to trade for a guy with an expiring contract that has a lot of game. Most teams are trying to give up longer-term contracts for shorter-term contracts, and a lot of times those teams are willing to sacrifice in order to shorten the money. In this case, you wouldn't be sacrificing. That's why everybody wants him."
In Camby the Clippers have another team's gold bucket. Their recent history with trades and draft picks has been good and they certainly have needs.
Maybe a call to the surprising Dallas Mavericks is in order. Camby in exchange for some bench help in the form of Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross, James Singleton and Tim Thomas. The numbers line up, the Mavericks get a seasoned big man and the Clippers have a strong bench and bring former Clippers back to the fold.
Trading the big man seems logical.
Of course, trading Camby would mean, most likely, not being a player in the 2010 NBA Christmas.
Should he stay or should he go?
The Clippers were primed for a good year this year. Thanks in part to the Blake Griffins injury, that was not to be.
A playoff push this year is possible with the club only four games back of the eighth spot. But the excitement over having made the playoffs would dull quickly after a quick exit.
No, a better game plan would be to use this season as a preparation for next year. Bring Griffin along slowly using real NBA games as his pre-season. Let him learn at the hands of a seasoned veteran in Camby.
Allow the team to grow together. The nucleus is in order and under contract. Give them 2009-2010 to learn each other, to build that connection Baron Davis and Chris Kaman have developed.
A starting five of Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al Thornton, and Blake Griffin sounds good to me. Let them start every game this season and let Camby bring his energy off the bench.
Not only does that put the team in position to allow its core group to grow together, it also makes them an option for 2010 free agents. Donald Sterling and Mike Dunleavy pursued Kobe Bryant when he was available. I think they enjoyed that ride and know what adding someone like LeBron James would mean to the franchise.
If a Camby decision is the Clippers' "wall", signing James represents what's on the other side of the wall. Those who choose to work out and struggle past their "wall" are rewarded with fitness. If the Clippers get the Camby decision right and manage to shock the NBA by convincing James to land in L.A., the team will be rewarded with something rarely seen in Clipper land—genuine excitement that reaches beyond Los Angeles.
The Clippers would not only become relevant, they would become a face of the league. Their fortunes would have turned and the Clippers would enjoy the fruits of their decision.
Should he stay or should he go? Camby needs to stay. An aggressive push for James need to be made and the team needs to use the balance of this year to come together.
If not, I'm afraid its another ride down the U-turn road the club has been on for years.