Portland Trail Blazers
Extended the contract of center Marcus Camby. [4/19]
While negotiations surely have been in the works for a while, the timing of Marcus Camby's two-year contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers, first reported today by ESPN's Marc Stein and since confirmed though not yet officially announced, could not have been better. The day after Camby was a key figure in Portland's Game One win at Phoenix, the Blazers learned they will retain Camby as a very valuable security blanket in the middle.
While GM Kevin Pritchard insisted at the time Portland acquired Camby that he wasn't simply a rental, re-signing or extending him surely became a more reasonable consideration when Joel Przybilla slipped in the shower and re-injured his patella tendon in early March. The injury postponed Przybilla's timetable for returning into the 2010-11 season in all likelihood, and there's no guarantee Przybilla will be able to play meaningful minutes next season.
That made Camby all the more valuable, since it left the possibility that a Greg Oden injury would leave the Blazers as thin up front as they were before acquiring Camby this season. Even with a healthy Oden, though, Camby should play a key role. After all, Oden averaged just 23.9 minutes per game this season before his injury, largely due to foul trouble. Camby played power forward with the L.A. Clippers, so it's also possible that Camby and Oden could play together at times when LaMarcus Aldridge is on the bench.
Though Camby is 36, he's aged amazingly well (especially considered the contract he's finishing now, signed with Denver in 2004, was considered a major risk at the time because of Camby's history of injuries). Camby produced 12.0 WARP this season, the third time in the last four years he's reached 12 WARP--something he did just once in his first 10 NBA campaigns. Our WARP projections showed comparable players to Camby as worth 10.3 WARP over the next two seasons, a total that put him ninth among next season's free agents.
Even should Camby be unable to keep up his Benjamin Button development, Portland is protected by the short-term nature of this contract. By the summer of 2011, Camby will again become a valuable expiring contract. Andre Miller's contract is non-guaranteed for the 2011-12 season, and while it looks like his services will be needed at the point, the combination of deals gives the Blazers a great deal of potential flexibility.
That said, Portland is paying a lot of money. According to The Oregonian's Jason Quick, the deal guarantees Camby $21 million over the next two seasons in addition to $4 million in "unlikely" bonuses that will not count against the salary cap. Camby would have been hard-pressed to get that kind of money on the open market, even after last week's announcement from commissioner David Stern that the 2010-11 salary cap will likely be higher than previously anticipated.
That's part of the explanation of why Camby would stay with the Blazers despite the fact that he'll likely be in a reserve role. The other, more uplifting aspect is the way Portland fans have embraced him over the last two months, culminating in a "Mar-cus Cam-by!" chant echoing through the Rose Garden after Camby's 30-point, 13-rebound effort against the Oklahoma City Thunder last Monday.
"Ever since I got to Portland, everywhere Iíve gone, the people have embraced me like Iíve been a Blazer my whole career--or actually, like Iím originally from Portland," Camby told Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune. "Everybody has been really gracious. Everybody has been thanking me--the fans have been tremendous.
"Theyíre the main reason why I decided to stick around, as well as us having a great group of guys on the team, and the coaching staff."
From the Blazers' perspective, Camby's extension likely means paying the luxury tax next season. According to ShamSports.com, Portland previously had $56.8 million committed in 2010-11 salaries. Camby's 2010-11 salary figures to be around $10.1 million, which would put the Blazers at $66.9 million prior to the draft and filling out their roster. The more optimistic projection of Basketball-Related Income that triggered the increase in the projected salary cap also affects the luxury tax. As best as I can guess, the tax level will be set around $67.1 million, making Portland payers unless the team can shed some money.
Of course, that's nothing unusual in the modern NBA; this year's Blazers were one of just three teams to win at least 50 games without paying the tax. So long as owner Paul Allen is willing to spend the cash, paying Camby does little if anything to hurt Portland in the long term. That's why this extension made so much sense for the Blazers.
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Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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