Debby Wong US PRESSWIRE
Marcus Camby is back with the Knicks for a second time, and his game really hasn't changed. He is still all about defense and rebounding.
The drama surrounding fan favorite Jeremy Lin and his departure from New York may have taken most of the New York Knicks' offseason headlines, but it's the "smaller" moves -- including the addition of an old friend -- that could prove to be just as crucial.
The Knicks in early July dealt Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan in a sign-and-trade -- in addition to cash, second-rounders in 2014 and 15 -- for center Marcus Camby, who received a three-year, $13.2 million contract, with the third year only partially guaranteed. It was a move that symbolized the offseason for the Knicks: add depth and gain experience at relatively low costs.
Camby, a 17-year veteran who has competed for six teams, played for the Knicks early in his career, from 1998 to 2002, before being dealt to the Denver Nuggets for Antonio McDyess. Camby was a member of the last Knicks team to reach the NBA Finals, in 1999. That team lost in five games to the San Antonio Spurs.
New York is not bringing Camby back to add offense. The Camby Man averages only 9.7 points per game in his career and is pretty much entirely a rebounder and defensive specialist, averaging 4.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in 23 minutes last season, one that was spent with the Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets. Camby, who was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007, will spell the 2012 winner and a guy whose game is very similar to his in Tyson Chandler at center. Chandler averaged 33.2 minutes last year, and he's also coming off the Summer Olympics, so a few more minutes resting on the bench will help him stay fresh and healthy as the year progresses, and that's where Camby fits in. The two figure to be one of the best one-two center defensive punches in the league.
Though he's not as spry as he once was, the 38-year-old is still athletic enough to get down the court, he is still an excellent rebounder and a plus shot blocker. Camby grabbed 22.8 percent of available misses last year, a mark that was the highest in the NBA, and he corralled the second-highest percentage of defensive rebounds in the league to Dwight Howard. He was fifth in the league in offensive rebounding percentage as well. He'll clog up the lane and and be the focal point of the team's second-unit defense. New York allowed 97.8 points per game last year (11th in the league) and adding someone like Camby, who only creates more opportunities with his ability to rack up boards, can only help to keep that number in the league's top half.
Of course the risk of having a player at the tail-end of his career is durability, and Camby has dealt with his fair share of injuries lately. Though he played in 59 of 66 games last year, he hasn't exactly been the staple of good health throughout his career, and that's not likely to change with age. In 2012, he's already dealing with a calf strain, and he hasn't practiced since early October. Camby has missed the Knicks' first two preseason games, with more absences likely. He's a guy at this stage of his career who probably doesn't need a whole lot of game time to get ready, but it's also a reminder of the frustrations that may persist throughout the season with an older player, especially one with as many mileage as Camby.