Camby making Knicks fans forget about Oakley
Posted: Monday June 07, 1999 07:52 PM
"All the credit has to go to him for perseverance," coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "He's gotten much, much better as the season has gone along.
Camby was far down the stat sheet during the regular season, seventh on the team in scoring (7.2), fourth in rebounding (5.5) and eighth in minutes (20.5). But in the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana, Camby is shooting a team-high 59 percent and averaging 10.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 27 minutes.
The best-of-7 series resumed Monday night with the Knicks leading the Pacers 2-1.
"I go out there and make the most of my minutes," said Camby, whose playing time, production and presence have all steadily increased during the Knicks' monthlong run through the postseason.
Camby got a surprise at halftime of Game 3 when coach Jeff Van Gundy told him he'd be starting the third quarter on the floor instead of on the bench.
"I'm not used to starting any half," Camby said. "So that was a big adjustment I had to make to my mindset."
He finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and the praise of Indiana coach Larry Bird, who called him "the best player on the court."
Camby has been slowly changing minds throughout this season, which began with much of New York -- including Van Gundy -- mourning the departure of the gritty Oakley.
When Camby reported to training camp out of shape and asked out of a game against Miami early in the season after just five minutes because he was winded, there were rumblings that the Knicks had sacrificed their title hopes in exchange for a skinny underachiever from Toronto who would never be able to battle with the likes of Miami and Indiana.
Four months later, Camby is a big reason why the Knicks have succeeded against those two teams in these playoffs.
"The disappointment he's had is that he hasn't played as much as he wanted," Van Gundy said. "That was my decision based upon what I thought was best for the team. Now was it or not? I don't know. All I know is now, when it counts the most, we're getting his best."
One of Camby's best plays with the Knicks came in the second round against Atlanta when he took a pass at the foul line, turned and launched to the hoop and dunked emphatically over Dikembe Mutombo.
When a videotape of the dunk was played at Madison Square Garden, it drew cheers to rival the ones heard when the replay was shown of the greatest dunk in team history -- John Starks' left-handed skywalk over Michael Jordan in the 1993 playoffs.
"The only time I've ever seen Jeff Van Gundy rewind a tape," teammate Allan Houston said, "was for that dunk."
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