He was the 2nd overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, a talent who many thought would revolutionize the center position. Standing at 6’11, Marcus Camby was as athletic and fast as a guard, while having the body and skill set of being a dominant rebounder.
18 seasons later, Camby is still going strong, ready to help contribute to a team through his experiences and veteran leadership.
Camby, who has called Houston his adopted hometown, decided to join the Rockets this summer for his 2nd stint with the team. He played 19 games for the Rockets in 2012 after he was acquired at the trade deadline from the Portland Trail Blazers, before tearing ligaments in his wrists and missing the rest of the season.
This time around, his physical durability may not be needed; rather, his mental durability will. As the oldest player on a Rockets squad who was the youngest team in the NBA a season ago, Camby is looking forward to become the veteran voice of the team.
Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle covered Camby’s return to the Rockets in early August:
“Being familiar with the city, this being my home, and being around the guys and the organization for those … games I was here a couple years ago, I felt that I was at the part of my career this was a good opportunity for me,” Camby said of his return to the Rockets as a free agent this summer. “Having a chance to come back home and finish my career here was all pluses for me.”
There was a time Camby, the second pick of the 1996 draft and four-time All-Defensive Team selection, would not have considered signing with a team that had just signed a franchise center. Now, after 17 NBA seasons, he was happy to play behind (Dwight)Howard and share his experiences with the young Rockets.
“Ten years ago, no,” Camby said of signing on to a team that just acquired Howard. “Now, I just got off the phone with him. He’s a great guy. Even before I signed, when I got my buyout in Toronto, he was one of the guys that was texting and calling me, trying to sell me on Houston. I told him he didn’t have to.
“I still have a lot to offer to the game, not just playing, but with my mind and all the battles and all the years I’ve been through, being placed in a situation we have a chance of winning with the talent we have on this team with Dwight and of course James (Harden) and Chandler (Parsons) and all the young guys we have.”
Camby now comes to a team that has 3 centers listed ahead of him on the depth chart, and 5 centers in all on the roster. Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, and Greg Smith are slated to get most of the minutes, but Camby seems content with that. Head coach Kevin McHale has already told him that there would be games where he doesn’t play, and Camby has accepted that, seeing his opportunity of being a mentor as a head start for his possible coaching career after retiring from playing.
“I think I can share my experiences throughout the league, what I’ve been through personally and what I’ve seen. Guys always come up to me, even guys on different teams, try to pick my brain about different things. If you look at our roster, it’s real young. I’m not taking anything away from those guys, but (I’m) someone a little bit older who has been through a lot.” Camby added.
Even if Camby was called on to play, it’s a question mark as to what he could bring at this stage of his career. With the New York Knicks last season, Camby battled injuries for a stretch of the season, and played in just 24 games, averaging 1.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in an average of about 10 minutes per game. But Camby himself thinks his talents are not reflective of those numbers.
“I can still play,” Camby said. “I can still be productive out there. I’m a guy that’s not going to command a lot of shots. I bring my hard hat every night. I just want to play defense and rebound and lead by example. I still feel fresh and ready to go. At this stage of my career, I’m not worried about minutes. I just want to be a part of something special.”
And special is hopefully what the Rockets will be this season.