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Front and centers – Nuggets fortunes lie with big men, and a fragile Camby


November 12th, 2003 by jcasper

At 4-4, Nene, Marcus Camby and the Denver Nuggets have begun to conjure images of a certain other foreign born player and Knicks shot blocking center lying in jubilation, during their last playoff appearance. Carmelo Anthony’s histrionics has given Denver Nuggets fans a “Rocky Mountain High”, but Nene and revitalized frontcourt teammate Marcus Camby have quietly been the catalysts for the Nuggets remarkable early season turnaround.

Marcus Camby’s return to health and the maturation of Nene give the Nuggets the quintessential front line. Certainly, in the forward-laden Western Conference, there are frontcourts that are superior on paper, but games are not won on paper, rather by team cohesiveness.

Carmelo Anthony has been every bit the player advertised, showing the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, especially down on the low block, a quality unique to all-time great small forwards Bernard King, Elgin Baylor and Mark Aguirre.

As a rookie, Nene’s low post game was raw and unpolished, but hard work has payed dividends and slowly Nene has shown that he can create shot from inside of ten feet. While Nikoloz Tskitishvili, has proven overwhelmed and overmatched by NBA competition, Nene has made the adjustment, most evident on the blocks where he has begun to develop an effective drop step, baby-hook, and short jump shot. He has also vastly improved his free-throw shooting, raising his percentage from under sixty percent to better than seventy percent, which is above the league average for forwards and centers.

The proverbial “wild-card” has been Camby. Acquired in a 2002 draft-day trade from the New York Knicks, along with Nene for franchise cornerstone Antonio McDyess, the oft-injured Camby was limited to just 29 ineffective games last season. Though he was brilliant at times in New York, he was deemed expendable due to his fragility.

In his seven years in the league, Camby has never played more than 63 games in a season. Wit the Knicks a healthy Camby was on the cusp of superstardom, averaging a double-double, and contributing on a nightly basis. However each time he was on the threshold of greatness, the injury bug would set in, forcing him to miss games, and regress his development.

After the trade to Denver, it was revealed his hip had not fully recovered from off-season surgery, and critics wondered if it was Dr Ernie Vandeweghe – -who retired from the Knicks after one season to pursue a medical career, not his son Kiki, the Nuggets GM that was best suited to run the Nuggets. Finally given a clean bill of health, the Nuggets brass have brought him along slowly, but he has begun to show flashed of the brilliance he displayed in New York.

On a team the ilk of the Nuggets, Camby’s skill set is a luxury. He is an NBA anomaly, insofar that he is most effective without the basketball. Anthony drawing double-teams on the strong side of the floor, allows Camby to roam the weak-side, where he is able to score off of offensive rebounds, missed assignments and broken plays.

Camby is limited offensively – – he is shooting just a shade over thirty percent from the field – – yet his presence has been felt. He is at his best when he allowed to roam the floor and use his quickness, a luxury he is afforded due to Nene ability to bang underneath and clear space.

Camby, despite playing less than 25 minutes per game, Camby is third in the league in offensive rebounds, and leads the NBA, averaging over 21 rebounds per 48 minutes. While the Nuggets are dead last in field goal percentage, they are in the middle third of the NBA in points per game, due in large part to the fact that they also average the fourth most field goal attempts, a product of Camby’s offensive board-work.

However, Camby’s main contribution has been on the other side of the floor, where he and Nene anchor the league’s 10th best defense. Nene is a banger, moving bodies, and providing a physical post presence that affords Camby the luxury of playing the weak side and blocking shots.

Camby is best utilized when playing next to physical player and does not have to guard players on the post, where he is more often than not physically overmatched. He is eighth in league in blocks, allowing ball-hawks Anthony, and point guard Andre Miller to play up on opponents, knowing that his presence is in the paint.

As the Nuggets, the league’s second-youngest team, continues to develop a team identity, and grow as a unit, their front line has proven they possess complimentary skill sets.

But for the Nuggets to make further strides, Camby it is imperative that he stay healthy. On Monday, Camby left the game with a strained knee, and though he is expected to play Friday, his health remains precarious at best. Denver’s fortunes may very well rest on Camby’s slight shoulders, which to this point have yet to prove they can carry the weight of a rigorous 82 game season.

One Response to “Front and centers – Nuggets fortunes lie with big men, and a fragile Camby”

  1. Wavatar aswitzer Says:

    Josh,

    So far so good. Camby has had a great attitude here both years – he really doesn’t get any plays run for him, but he works hard on the boards at both ends of the court, and often gets his points from offensive put-backs.

    Hope he can continue to stay healthy and productive!

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