Will Marcus Camby Eventually Break the Knicks’ Rotation?

Earlier today, Knicks’ Coach Mike Woodson wouldn’t discuss how he plans on re-acclimating Amar’e Stoudemire back into the lineup when he returns from injury next month. Will he be a starter? With New York off to such a strong start, the team needs to be careful not to rock the boat. Whose minutes would Stoudemire potentially take away?

Of course, with his return nearly a month away, a more in depth conversation about the “dilemma” should be saved for another day.

But as the Knicks take on the Hornets in New Orleans later this evening, there will surely another player who will continue vying for minutes in the rotation.

Since returning from a calf injury that kept him sidelined through most of training camp and the preseason, Marcus Camby hasn’t seen the playing time many may have expected him to receive when the big man signed with the team this summer.

After receiving two “DNP-CD’s” next to his name in the Knickerbocker box score, it became apparent that perhaps Camby wasn’t 100% ready to hit the hardwood. Was Coach Woodson simply trying to ease him back into the lineup, just as he’ll have to do with Stoudemire next month?

Finally getting a chance to play in Sunday’s matinee against the Pacers, Camby may have caused some Knicks fans to wonder what Woodson was waiting for.

In 12 minutes of play against Indiana, the returning Knickerbocker played wonderfully. Displaying that defensive intensity and grit the team lacked for many years after his departure, Camby contested shots (blocking two of them), fought for rebounds, and dove to the floor to grab loose balls. Doing all of what he’s done best for over a decade now, the center hadn’t seemed to lose a step at all.

Still, Coach Woodson maintains that Camby is still working on his conditioning and will only play when needed. Considering the strengths he has, Camby and his abilities should be considered necessary key defensive traits, crucial to what the Knicks are trying to do each and every night.

During the preseason, Woodson hung onto the hope that Rasheed Wallace would improve his conditioning in time for the regular season. Keeping the veteran on the roster, there was fear that he would take away a spot from a player like Chris Copeland, who showed great promise through October.

Eight games into the season, and both Wallace and Copeland are still around. But as Wallace continues to prove he can still compete in the NBA after a two-year absence, his time on the court is seemingly coming at Camby’s expense.

Now of course, there’s probably enough minutes to go around. With Carmelo Anthony thriving at the power forward position, the Knicks have opted to play more “small-ball.”

But the time remains now to get Camby involved. Unlike Wallace, Camby played quite well in the NBA last season, grabbing 9 rebounds and blocking 2.3 shots in 23 minutes per game. He’s returned to New York, fresh off a strong season split with two teams, serving as a main contributor to both.

It’s important to get Camby back into the lineup consistently, sooner than later. If the minutes (or simply a chance) can’t be had now, how would one expect to fit the big man in when Stoudemire returns as well?

At the very least, working Camby in now would give the team an idea as to how and where he fits. If they wait, it’ll become too late. The focus will shift to Stoudemire as a priority, and Camby may be pushed to the end of the bench.

Wallace or no Wallace, Camby needs minutes. He’s a quality player, still capable of contributing to the Knicks with a gritty effort on defense. What NBA team couldn’t benefit from an extra dose of that?