Denver traded F Marcus Camby to the Clippers last night, one of the finest defensive players of his generation and perhaps the 6th most famous UMass almunus (following Julius Erving, J Mascis, Frank Black, David Berman and Bill Cosby) of the modern age for no more than a swap of 2010 second round picks.  While Camby’s agent, Rick Kaplan accurately describes the deal as “a salary dump”, Nuggets management asserts otherwise to the Rocky Mountain News’ Chris Tomasson.

“The deal was made for one compelling reason,” said vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien, who said the Nuggets remain in luxury-tax territory. “The trade exception that we get provides us with greater flexibility and more options for potential deals.”

Warkentien was asked if he’s concerned about the public-relations implications of getting nothing immediate for Camby, who averaged 9.1 points, 13.1 rebounds and an NBA-high 3.61 blocked shots last season.

“It’s not a checkers move,” he said. “It’s a chess move. Chess is a tougher game to understand. You’ve got to wait longer to see the results of the move.”

Kaplan said Camby was “shocked.” He said Camby, who played six Nuggets seasons, was most concerned about his charity endeavors in Denver.

“Most of all, I’ll miss the Denver community,” Camby, who was unavailable for comment, said in a statement. “It became my home. It’s where I have my foundation, and I was very involved there.”

It’s a curious move — you wouldn’t think Denver would necessarily have an eye on 2010 when they’ve already got Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson under contract.  The former, presumably, isn’t going to fetch fair value from Detroit, nor is there much hope of Warkentien finding a taker for Kenyon Martin.  But this has to be consider a massive coup for a Clippers franchise still reeling from the loss of Elton Brand.  Despite being the walking definition of “oft-injured” Camby is a far more valuable addition than Zach Randolph and far less likely to send Mike Dunleavy wandering into traffic.