Camby Seeks Portland Return Although 'Anything's Possible'
The guys he plays for now.
The center started his NBA career way back in 1996, having a two-year stint with Toronto. There's been no word about the Raptors wanting to bring Camby back, but every other NBA team he has toiled for just might go after him when he becomes a free agent this summer.
New York, where he played from 1998-2002, is expected to have interest. So is Denver, where he played from 2002-08. The Clippers have been the most vocal in wanting to bring back Camby, but the Clippers perhaps didn't get bonus points by dealing him last month to Portland after 1 1/2 seasons in Los Angeles.
For now, the Trail Blazers are the leader.
"My top priority is to come back [to the Trail Blazers] if things work out the right way like we all want them to work out the rest of the season,'' Camby said in an interview with FanHouse before Sunday's game at Denver, one he sat out due to a sprained left ankle. "This is my first choice. They really wanted me here, and they got me here. So hopefully things can work out.''
Portland acquired Camby last month for guards Steve Blake and forward Travis Outlaw, needing a replacement for centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla, both lost for the season in December due to knee injuries. Portland coach Nate McMillan, though, makes it clear his team wasn't just going after Camby, who turns 36 later this month, for just this season.
"No question,'' McMillan said. "We definitely were thinking beyond this year. Both of our centers are out this year. And the possibility of bringing him on board, not only because he can help for insurance. We wouldn't have [traded for Camby] if we didn't think we could re-sign him. It wasn't a move for just this year.''
The Clippers, though, are hoping it is for just this year.
Clippers general manger Mike Dunleavy has touched upon the possibility of bringing back Camby next summer. And interim coach Kim Hughes and center Chris Kaman both did in interviews with FanHouse.
"I love Marcus Camby as a person,'' Hughes said. "I really miss him as a player. I would hope he comes back here if I'm back here ... I understand why ... salary-cap reasons (were why the Clippers made the move due to saving several million bucks in getting lesser salaries and some cash back). I fully understand we got money out of the deal. I fully support what the front office did, but I miss him.''
So does Kaman.
"I hope so,'' Kaman said of bringing back Camby in free agency. "But I think we're going to go after another player first (trying to sign a big-name free agent with cap room first before possibly pursuing Camby).''
Camby doesn't deny he's kept in close touch with Hughes and Kaman since being dealt.
"I talk to those guys like every day,'' Camby said. "They always talk about how they miss me and things aren't the same. I'll be rooting for those guys from a distance.''
So does that mean Camby will consider a return to the Clippers?
"Anything's possible,'' he said.
That seems to be a familiar answer from Camby. He was asked about the possibility of returning to the Knicks after a New York Daily News story Sunday called that a possibility.
"Anything's possible,'' he said.
Then there's the Nuggets, who also are expected this summer to take a look at bringing back Camby. Camby told FanHouse in January he would consider a return to Denver but he seemed even stronger about that Sunday even if Portland remains his top choice.
Yes, Camby did throw out an "anything's possible'' about the Nuggets. But when he was asked about having bought a house in Los Angeles, he soon changed the subject to his fondness for Denver.
"L.A. was cool,'' Camby said. "L.A. is expensive. But L.A. is cool. But Denver is where my youngest was born here, with all the troubles [the baby] went through, and what all the nurses and the doctors did during the hospital stay. So I have a lot of sentimental value here.''
Camby is referring to Maya Camby, his daughter who was born prematurely May 9, 2007, in Denver at 24 weeks, weighing 1 pound 5 ounces. Camby struggled throughout the summer dealing with Maya's health situation, but she eventually recovered and hospital officials dubbed her "Miracle Baby.''
Since being dealt to the Clippers in July 2008, Camby has maintained ties to Denver. He remains very active in the community with a program called "Marcus' Mentors,'' which involves high-school students working with youth.
"You know how I feel about Denver the community, especially all my community stuff I've done,'' he said. "All the people I've met. So it's always good.''
Camby had believed he was most likely to be shipped back to the Nuggets as the Feb. 18 trade deadline approached.
"I actually thought I was going to end up here in Denver when stuff was being talked around,'' he said. "I heard they inquired.''
It had been long shot, though, with the Nuggets being in the luxury tax and not wanting to take on Camby's $9.15 million salary-cap figure. So he went Feb. 16 to the Trail Blazers.
"We've been playing winning ball, and that's all you can pretty much ask for,'' said Camby, who said he expects to return in a few days from his ankle injury. "This is a great situation to be in. The minutes will be here. But we also have a team that can compete year after year.''
Camby might want to step up his a play a bit, though, if the Trail Blazers are to compete this season. In seven games, while playing just slightly less minutes than before, he's averaging 3.3 points and 7.9 rebounds to drop his seasonal averages to 7.2 points and 11.6 rebounds. Camby is shooting just 33.3 percent but he is averaging 2.29 blocks to raise his seasonal mark to 1.98.
McMillan said Camby's very low scoring average is due to the big man adjusting to a new team and because the Trail Blazers primarily acquired him for defense.
"We need him to help us with rebounding and denying the basketball,'' McMillan said of the NBA 2006-07 Defensive Player of the Year.
Despite some of his up-and-down play, Portland's desire to retain Camby perhaps increased when Przybilla, who had undergone surgery Dec. 24 to repair a ruptured right patella tendon, re-ruptured that tendon falling in the shower Saturday. His career could be in jeopardy.
While Camby does say the Trail Blazers are at the top of his list, he will test the market this summer.
"Even [Sunday], I'm getting e-mails about stuff in the New York Daily News,'' he said. "It's been real crazy. I'm looking forward to [being a free agent] ... It feels good to be wanted.''
After all, Camby does say anything's possible.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson