The Marcus Camby Mystery

Bruce Bennett

Where in the world is Marcus Camby? On the bench, stupid! Why is he on the bench? Now that is a good question!

The Knicks came into both of their last two games intending to mess with Texas; apparently nobody told them beforehand that Texas is not overly fond of being messed with. Instead, it was the Mavericks and the Rockets who did most of the messing, while the Knicks mostly messed all over themselves and the basketball court. Thank the basketball gods that the Knicks are finally heading back East.

(I just received update that Carmelo Anthony was molested by TSA agents at the Houston airport. The refs stepped in and called Melo for an offensive foul.)

The de-pantsing of the Knicks' once-vaunted defense by Houston was especially disturbing. Toney Douglas shot 3-4 from behind the arc, for God's sake! Does anybody want to venture a guess as to how many times TD shot better than 50% from the 3 last season? Once - during the fourth game of last season, a 4-6 performance at Sacramento. When did the Knicks become Sacramento?

Honestly, I don't mind the threes (except for Chandler Parson's patented off-balance facing-the-scorer's table three), and much of the dribble penetration is a trade-off for having all those savvy (slow) veterans in the back court. But somebody has to protect the rim on said dribble penetration, and that somebody should be Tyson Chandler. Tyson was a magnificent, transformative presence on D last season, but he's seemed hesitant at times in the past few games. He's allowed an off-game or two, but the man is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and that kind of presence is hard to replace. If only the Knicks had another former Defensive Player of the Year to spell him. That sounds like a rare commodity, though, am I right? I mean, how many former Defensive Players of the Year are just sitting around on the Knicks' bench?

Oh, right...Marcus Camby.

I thought the whole idea behind the Camby trade was that Marcus Camby should, in theory, be able to give you much of what Tyson Chandler gives you, so long as you limit his minutes. The Knicks have been getting consistently out-rebounded, and Camby was the best per-minute rebounder in the league last year. If you need someone to grab a ton of boards and protect the rim in limited minutes off the bench, you literally couldn't come up a better player for the job than Camby. Right? RIGHT???

What the hell is going on here, people? If I had told you in the preseason that Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and James Freakin' White had all played more minutes than Camby, you probably would have guessed Camby was injured, and not playing at all. But he is playing...occasionally. I've seen Camby about as often as I've seen Halley's Comet.

Mike Woodson has said that Camby hasn't played because of concerns about his conditioning, and I'd like to believe that, except:

  1. Sheed has been allowed to play himself into shape, which has generally benefited the team's performance. Why can't Camby do the same thing?
  2. NEVER BELIEVE ANYTHING THE KNICKS SAY, EVER!

My Knick-addled brain, warped by years of abuse, has already kicked into full-blown conspiracy mode following these back-to-back losses. Here are my theories as to why Camby isn't playing.

Scenario 1: Knicks' Injury Subterfuge

The idea here is that Camby is injured, has always been injured, will always be injured, and the Knicks are not telling us the whole story. This theory is supported by the fact that we're talking about the Knicks, here - when are they not lying about injuries?In this scenario, Camby will become a part of the regular rotation right about the same time we get Kalenna Azubuike back. What's worse, this would be the most next-level Machiavellian Knicks' injury cover-up in the long, sad history of Knick injury cover-ups. The Knicks might be playing Camby just enough to stop people from asking questions about possible injuries, and Camby is such a man's man that he's actually willing to play 4 MPG with whatever condition is afflicting him (broken femur? gout? Marcus Camby's Disease?). Why would the team do this? To what end? I don't have the kind of mind to follow the Knicks' injury reasoning.

Scenario 2: Marcus Camby is a Hologram

This is my favorite scenario. For years I've been begging the Knicks to put their financial resources into research and development. Instead of signing crappy players to bloated contracts and acquiring even crappier players by trading away draft picks, why not just clone the early-70's and mid-90's Knicks? After all, there's no spending cap for clones. Perhaps the Knicks R&D department were inspired by the Tupac hologram. Marcus Camby retired, but they paid him money to lay low and keep his mouth shut, and they secretly unveiled the Camby-gram. Unfortunately, the technology required to produce a lifelike hologram that can also rebound is still in the initial test phases (They're not even close to producing a Camby-gram that can actually hit shots), so they're still working out the kinks from night to night. This is the scenario that involves the most rational decision-making on the part of the Knicks, which is a little scary.

Scenario 3: Mike Woodson Suddenly Forgot How to Manage Rotations

Whenever some punk would crack jokes about the age of the Knicks' roster - and I don't mean the light-hearted jokes we make here at P&T - I would point out that the Knicks may be old, but they are deep. And they are have the redundancies you need to support such an old roster: reserves can step in seamlessly, minutes can be managed, nagging injuries can be allowed proper time to heal. The blowout wins of the first two weeks seemed to bear that out. This is a roster that needs to be managed properly, and Mike Woodson seems like the guy to do it. But these last few games, man...

Woodson was right to give Rasheed Wallace burn. The guy's been more valuable than we could have imagined coming into the season. He may be chucking a bit more than I'd like, but he's been valuable where the Knicks need help the most: on the glass. Sheed's defensive rebound percentage leads the team, and his total rebound percentage ranks third. Would anybody like to guess who leads the team in total rebound percentage, as well as offensive rebound percentage? That's right...Marcus Camby! Normally, I would chalk that up to the small sample size...except this is Marcus Camby we're talking about, rebounding is what he does! And when Woodson manages to put Camby in there, he's still rebounding. This guy deserves to play, even if he's a little out of shape.

No matter what the deal is, Woodson and the Knicks need to get their shit together. I don't mind losing to Jeremy Lin, at least not as much as I mind losing to that turd burglar Chandler Parsons. There is, however, a game coming up in a few days that I would very much like them to win.

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