Camby makes the most of first season with woebegone Clippers
Veteran center Marcus Camby's play has been a rare bright spot for the Clippers
Camby's recent ankle injury is just the latest setback for the depleted team
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Less than a year ago, Marcus Camby anchored the paint for a Nuggets team that reached the playoffs in five of his six seasons in Denver. He was a fan favorite in the city, as active in the community as he was on the court.
Now, while his old team is contending for home-court advantage in the playoffs, Camby toils for the Clippers, who are challenging for the league's worst record and still waiting for their dramatic roster changes to take hold.
Camby has every right to feel disappointed, having been shaken after the Nuggets shipped him to the Clippers last offseason in a salary dump, but the 13-year veteran has maintained a sunny outlook. He says he's happy with his new surroundings. His family enjoys the 85-degree days in January. His new team considered him valuable enough to assume his $10 million salary, and he is having fun tutoring several intriguing prospects while producing All-Star-caliber numbers.
"I thought I would be in Denver the rest of my career," Camby said. "I was shocked about the trade. I didn't think my play warranted a trade.
"Once I came to terms with it, though, and got settled out here, I felt we had a team that could compete for a playoff spot. With me, Baron Davis and Chris Kaman, plus young players like Al Thornton and rookie Eric Gordon, I thought it would take us a little time to jell but eventually we would get our act together. Then once we got Zach [Randolph], I thought we would really take off. But most of those guys have been banged up, so I've been pretty much out there by myself. And now when you look at the overall picture, you can pretty much throw this year out the window."
The Clippers have been hammered by injuries, losing Kaman to a strained arch injury in November and Davis to a bruised tailbone before Camby himself bowed out Saturday night with a sprained ankle that -- according to the team -- has left him day-to-day. But L.A. hasn't made it easy on itself, having to adjust to Randolph after a big November trade and inviting the turmoil of Davis' reluctance to play coach Mike Dunleavy's style.
"Through the course of a season, players and coaches don't always see eye to eye, and when things aren't going right, it's easy for guys to point fingers for our lack of success," Camby said. "But I think for the most part, coach and BD's relationship is fine.
"It's still an ongoing process of adjustment. It's hard to get things accomplished when you don't have your full allotment of guys out there. We're putting guys who haven't played a lot of big minutes in terribly hard situations."
Camby has been one of the Clippers' few bright spots. He ranks second in the NBA in rebounding (13.8 through Sunday) and blocks (2.6) and is averaging 12.3 points (on 50.9 shooting from the field). Camby, though, downplays his chances of making the All-Star team for the first time.
"We're [9-30] right now, and when you base it on that, I don't feel I should be in Phoenix" for the Feb. 15 game, Camby said.
The 34-year-old's strong play, combined with the fact that his contract expires after next season and the Clippers also have Kaman at the center position, has fueled speculation that Camby could be dealt before the Feb. 19 trading deadline. But Camby isn't angling for a trade.
"I know a lot of teams have been calling, and it's always good to feel wanted," he said in a telephone interview. "If I have my preference, I would like to stay here."
After feeling burned by the Nuggets for their money-drive trade, Camby appreciates the opportunity to play mentor to a team trying to develop three rookies and last year's first-round pick, Thornton.
"When you give a constant effort on the glass, guys appreciate you for that," Camby said. "They see how much effort you're putting in, how bad you want to fight and win. That can be contagious; it can jolt a little life into other players and into the fans.
"I love going out there and battling against these young studs they have in this league. And the enjoyment I take in seeing our young players develop pretty much makes my day."