The Rockets are signing Marcus Camby to a one-year deal, bringing the former Defensive Player of the Year and Houston resident back to his adopted hometown. Camby was bought out by the Raptors over a week ago after the Knicks sent him to Toronto in a deal for Andrea Bargnani.
As David Weiner pointed out, Camby will get the veteran’s minimum ($1.4 million), but the Rockets are responsible for less than $900K of that salary.
It really wasn’t that long ago that Houston’s only decent center stood 6-foot-5. The days of Chuck Hayes anchoring the middle in Clutch City seem to be a distant memory as the Rockets now have three top paint-protecting centers on the roster in Dwight Howard, Omer Asik and now Camby. On a team with an elite scoring and playmaking guard in James Harden, this defensive presence in the middle is going to be a tremendous strength.
The Rockets are bringing back Camby after trading him to the Knicks just a year ago this month in a sign-and-trade deal for what basically amounted to Toney Douglas, two second round picks and cash. The Rockets now have Camby back and are still owed those second rounders from New York (2014, 2015).
Camby, who was a revelation for the Rockets in the second half of the 2011-12 season (7.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks in 24.1 minutes), did not provide much at all for the Knicks. He dealt with a series of injuries (plantar fasciitis in his left foot, primarily) and played a total of just 250 minutes over 24 games, averaging just 1.8 points and 3.3 rebounds.
So the question comes down to — does the 39-year old have anything left in the tank?
Not sure, but keep in mind — this wouldn’t be the first time an aging defensive center, left for dead with the Knicks, found his way to the Rockets. Dikembe Mutombo, 38 years old at the time, was discarded by New York and sent to Chicago in a trade in 2004. The Bulls quickly relayed him to Houston for Eric Piatkowski and Mutombo’s career was revitalized with the Rockets as a backup to Yao Ming.
What does this mean for Omer Asik? Given Camby’s zero-impact season last year in the Big Apple, I’d say it doesn’t mean much right away, but it could depend on what Camby can provide. The Rockets are not rushing to trade Asik, but I do feel the clock is ticking on his time in Houston. I don’t think adding Camby accelerates that — only the right deal surfacing will get that trigger pulled — but if Camby can prove that last year was an injury-riddled anomaly, it would certainly lessen the blow of losing Asik.