The last time Marcus Camby was a full-time backup center, his team made it to the NBA Finals.
That was the 1998-99 season, and to this day, still stands as the closest Camby has gotten to winning that oh so coveted NBA title.
Four NBA “All-Defensive” teams and a respectable decade-plus career later, Camby has returned to the Big Apple in hopes of finally winning that trophy once and for all.
Just like in 1999, when Camby backed up one of the greatest big men of all-time in Patrick Ewing, he will again don orange and blue while backing up quite the skilled center in 2012 DPOY Tyson Chandler.
How much easier could life get, for the returning Knickerbocker? Backing up a player of Chandler’s caliber, the pressure is all but off of Camby. Though the big man is 38 years old, he proved last season what the Knicks will set out to prove all year: age is just a number.
Last season, Camby started 53 out of 59 games for the Blazers and Rockets, still managing to grab 9 rebounds and swat 1.4 blocks in just 23 minutes per contest. His averages stayed relatively steady through stints with both teams as the big man proved he can still be a key contributor in an NBA rotation.
Hoping to avoid any type of major decline as he enters the twilight of his career, Camby has put himself in the best position to play well while preserving his skills. Only being faced with serving as the anchor of the Knicks’ second unit seems like it will allow him to do that.
And there’s no denying that Camby hopes returning to a familiar place will bring him even the more familiar type of success. Speaking earlier this week at the Knicks’ training facility, the big man said, I think in life, things often come full circle. This is where I wanted to end my career. I’m around a lot of friends and family, because I grew up near the area. So it feels good to be back.”
While star power has become what has recently propelled many NBA squads to the promise land, Camby praised the depth the Knicks have. By choosing to don orange and blue once more, the center reunited himself with a number of teammates he’s played with before throughout his career, including Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, and of course, Kurt Thomas.
Recognizing the benefits to joining a Knicks team so poised to compete, Camby added, “The last couple years, the Knicks have been putting a good product out on the basketball court. They’ve put good players out there. I felt like this is a group that I could come in and help.”
The big man asserted that it was his belief that the Knicks have the best front court in all of the NBA following the signing of Rasheed Wallace. That said, with so many older veterans forced to play key minutes for New York this coming season, questions surrounding whether or not each one will be able to hold up now swirl. Camby, for one, however, is not worried.
“There’s no restrictions on me,” he said. “No restrictions on anybody. I think us older guys, we all want to play. We all feel good to play. I think the organization feels good about us, and that’s why they brought us back here. I see a lot of similarities between this team and the one we had in 1999 when we made it to The Finals. We had a lot of older veterans….so there’s a lot of similarities and a lot of the same makeup.”
Having experienced such success in the Big Apple before, Camby can surely understand the type of winning culture the Knicks are looking to embrace. There’s a certain defensive mentality and competitive intensity to be carried out, and the returning Knickerbocker seems to already recall exactly what that was like. His decision to return to New York, rather than play for the Heat, had much to do with his pride in the rivalry the two squads have had over the years.
With such a talented roster, but such a narrow window for success, the pressure for the Knicks to win the ultimate prize is on. For Camby, however, this season was about putting himself in the best possible position. The pressure is in fact minimized by being able to backup Tyson Chandler. Playing alongside former teammates, in front of friends and family (and not to mention passionate fans), there’s no reason why Camby won’t thrive in his role, even in his older age.