Rockets’ short term looks brighter with Camby


The acquisition of defensive stalwart Marcus Camby makes the Rockets' short term a lot healthier.




The NBA trade deadline is always a busy time for the Houston Rockets. General Manager Daryl Morey relishes the idea of acquiring a superstar, but never quite gets it done.

In the meantime, he finds ways to make the Rockets better, or at the least keep them competitive.

This time around, the message was clear. The Rockets made strategic trades that would solidify the position they were in now and keep cap space open for the future. One strategic move was bringing in size to bolster the frontcourt.

The primary deal was the acquisition of veteran center Marcus Camby from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for center Hasheem Thabeet, guard Jonny Flynn and a 2012 second-round pick.

Camby, who is no stranger to the Houston area, was elated to finally be a Houston Rocket when he spoke to the Houston Chronicle in his introductory news conference on Friday afternoon.

“I built a big house down here in Pearland. My kids love it here,” said Camby, who turns 38 next week. “I always said when I was building my house that I would like to finish my career down here. Hopefully, it will go further than just these last couple months of the season.”

The Rockets have coveted Camby, who is likely to make his Houston debut tonight against the Clippers in Los Angeles, for a few years now, but never could quite swing the deal to acquire him. At the ripe age of 37 Camby sees no slowing down in sight.

“I want to play 20-plus years,” the 16-year veteran told the Chronicle. “That’s the goal. That’s what I keep telling my body every year.”

The Rockets added a fantastic defensive piece to the puzzle, while essentially trading a second-round draft pick. We all know Thabeet and Flynn had no future with the Rockets, and while Camby may be old, big men are hard to come by in the NBA, so much so that Morey decided a second-round pick justified that.

You may remember the Rockets took a similar approach when they got Dikembe Mutombo late in his career a few years ago. Deke proved to a very serviceable backup, and I think Camby will be the same for 29-year-old Samuel Dalembert.

Camby was the defensive player of the year in 2007, and has been a four-time NBA blocks leader. His consistency on that end of the floor is no fluke. He has career averages of 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. He also has significant playoff experience during his tenure with the Knicks, Nuggets and Blazers.

So the real question is, what can Marcus Camby do for the Rockets? I can tell you right now, no one is happier than Luis Scola.

The pressure that Scola was once responsible for on the defensive end when Dalembert took a seat should decrease greatly. We know what Scola does well on offense, but defense is another story. Forcing Scola to box out on the boards and take the brunt of the defensive responsibility when Dalembert sits is unrealistic.

The Rockets now have an intriguing defensive duo at the center position. Camby was playing 22.4 minutes per game for the Blazers, while Dalembert plays 24.8 for the Rockets. These two big men can now split time evenly, and while I do think Dalembert will continue to start for the Rockets, Camby splitting time will build stability.

Head coach Kevin McHale now has two solid options to choose from. It’s clear McHale shakes up his rotation depending on how well a specific player is playing. The more options for a coach like McHale, the better the Rockets will be.

Nothing frustrated Rockets fans more than seeing McHale play Scola at the ‘5.’ It was painfully problematic, even more so when you consider rebounding has been a huge struggle for the Rockets. Team rebounding has taken a large step back since Kyle Lowry took a hit with the bacterial infection. Jordan Hill never was the solution, Patrick Patterson was more suited to the forward position, and Thabeet never played.

Adding Camby into the equation is a significant upgrade.

The Rockets may end up as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and under this premise the Oklahoma City Thunder would be the No. 1 seed. The Rockets are 2-2 against the Thunder this season, both incredibly impressive wins. Kevin Durant has missed potential game-winners, and the Rockets have beaten OKC at home and away. Keep in mind the Thunder are 18-4 at home, and the Rockets beat them without their starting backcourt.

This is all hypothetical, and the playoffs are a different beast, but this first round matchup is no walk in the park for the Thunder. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka now have another big man to deal with in Camby. As a whole, opponents can no longer have a field day in the paint once Dalembert sits.

The Rockets once again failed to get significantly better. They made a move that seemed logical for the position they are in now. That’s not to say they wouldn’t have made a blockbuster move if one was presented to them, but it simply wasn’t to be. You’re not obligated to make a move at the trade deadline, and you certainly don’t make one out of force. The Rockets scoured the landscape and found no mutual interest.

Though they trimmed the fat off this roster by moving Thabeet, Flynn, Hill, and releasing Terrence Williams, major changes are still needed to contend for a championship. This offseason may be that chance, and the Rockets have kept the door open for a big sales pitch.

While the short term looks healthier, only time will tell what the long-term solution is for the guys in red and silver.