Why the Knicks need Marcus Camby

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Marcus Camby. (NBA.com)
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Generally speaking, it's not a great idea for N.B.A. teams to collect players in their late 30s.

So what exactly are the Knicks thinking by bringing in Jason Kidd, who will be 39, and going after Marcus Camby, who will be 38 and hasn't played with the Knicks for a decade?

In both cases, the Knicks would be adding players who are still productive and can provide a set of skills that the roster desperately needs.

In Kidd, the Knicks added a backup point guard more than capable of spelling Jeremy Lin, if Lin returns, and helping him develop. 

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In Camby, the Knicks would be getting a player who could conceivably mean the difference between legitimately competing for the Eastern Conference title and just missing.

Consider that last season, Camby's total rebounding percentage was 22.8 percent. That was best in the league: better than Dwight Howard, Kevin Love or any other rebounder you can name. Nor was this an anomaly for Camby; he's been over 20 percent six different seasons, and he led the league in total rebounding percentage the past three seasons.

To put this in perspective, Tyson Chandler was a very good rebounder last season, and easily the best on the Knicks. He checked in at 17.6 percent, or 36th in the N.B.A. So Camby adds a significant dimension to the Knicks, and more important, one that the other Eastern Conference contenders wouldn't have. It isn't any surprise that the Heat, Celtics and Nets have all expressed interest in Camby as well.

The other major advantage Camby would provide the Knicks is some additional support for a defense that is absurdly dependent upon Chandler, the reigning N.B.A. Defensive Player of the Year.

The Knicks were a good defensive team under Mike Woodson, but people seem to forget that they were also a good defensive team under Mike D'Antoni when Chandler was reasonably healthy. The Knicks were bad on defense when Chandler didn't play. 

Adding Camby, who blocked shots at a significantly better rate than Chandler, would mean that the Knicks wouldn't have to choose between playing Chandler and giving up on one end of the floor. Better still, a Camby-led second unit would allow the Knicks to deploy Amar'e Stoudemire in a non-Carmelo Anthony lineup. The result, more room for Stoudemire to operate, a shooter in Steve Novak (assuming he returns) to create space for him, a point guard in Jason Kidd to find him, and no need to rely on Stoudemire defensively inside, would give the Knicks a second unit the envy of nearly every other N.B.A. team.

So if the Knicks can close the deal on Kidd and Camby, they will have addressed many of their most pressing needs from last season. It still might not be enough to close the gap with the Heat (or maybe even the Nets, if they get Dwight Howard). But without Camby, they might find themselves out of the running.