HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – In the seconds it took Marcus Camby to contort his long body out of the black stretch limo and flash his confident smile Friday, all seemed right for the Rockets at the moment.
Never mind that Camby’s one-hour delay had left his new teammates and coaching staff sitting in the charter jet on the tarmac 30 minutes past their projected takeoff for two-game west coast swing. Never mind that the other critical piece to Thursday’s trade deadline deals, point guard Derek Fisher, wasn’t anywhere around and may not ever put on a Rockets uniform.
But what’s important is the Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Kevin McHale now have the added defensive presence and rim protector they were seeking in the 37-year-old Camby. The 15-year veteran will likely make his debut with the Rockets at the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
“It always feels good to be wanted,” said Camby, who has lived in Houston during the offseason since 2005 and recently built a home in Pearland. “Talking with Daryl last night, they are excited about me. But I think I’m more excited about being here than they are having me.”
Morey and McHale both said they believe Camby will give them more of a defensive presence in the middle which is essential as the Rockets fight to remain in the Western Conference playoff race. Currently they are 24-20 and sit in the No.8 spot following a lethargic beginning to the second half of the season.
The 6-foot-11 Camby, who turns 38 next week, has been the top defensive rebounder in the league the last three seasons and was averaging 8.8 rebounds along with 3.8 points in 22.4 minutes per game for floundering Portland prior to Thursday’s trade.
Camby, who replaces Jordan Hill in the rotation, should give the Rockets a much stronger one-two punch in the middle with starting center Sam Dalembert.
“Marcus Camby is somebody we are really excited about what he can bring to our bigs rotations,” Morey said. “He’s a really effective defensive player. People are obviously very familiar with his game, he’s been in the league for a quite a while. People aren’t familiar with how effective he still is.
“I’m excited to add Marcus to the team for our playoff push and we were also able to pick up a first round draft pick that we think will help us in the future. We were able to upgrade the team now and going forward which we are excited about.”
But all wasn’t good news Friday as the team dealt with the obvious absence of Fisher by pretty much glossing over his part in one of the trade deals. The Rockets sent Hill to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Fisher and a first round draft pick.
The first round draft pick is in hand but Fisher is nowhere to be found, which leaves the Rockets with only Goran Dragic to play the point guard spot while Kyle Lowry is sidelined likely another couple weeks with a bacterial illness. The Rockets packaged third string point guard Jonny Flynn, center Hasheem Thabeet and a second round draft pick in the deal with Portland for Camby.
It has the team’s hope that Fisher would at least fill Lowry’s void for the next couple weeks, but it is looking as if he is contemplating not showing up at all, which was first reported by SportsRadio 610 as a possibility on Thursday.
Morey said he could not talk about the Fisher situation other than to say, “The trade obviously happened but beyond that I can’t comment.”
There is speculation the Rockets could bring in veteran Anthony Carter to fill the roster space, which is down two players after the team also waived Terrence Williams on Friday morning. But Morey would not reveal his plans for the roster openings other than to say they will look to fill them soon.
“We are constantly evaluating,” Morey said. “As folks know we are almost always at 15 because we are always trying to maximize whether it’s looking at a young player or adding depth. I would be surprised if we didn’t bring in some folks but we don’t have any names right now to talk about.”
But the talk Friday was really all about Camby, who escaped the Trailblazers as the team started crumbling around him. Portland broke up most of its ineffective team and then fired head coach Nate McMillan on Thursday.
Camby sees the Rockets as an opportunity to start fresh and perhaps finish his career in the city he now calls home.
“I hated to leave Portland but it’s going crazy there the last couple weeks of that season,” he said. “It was a great franchise, I had a lot of great times there, I had a great couple years there and I had some great teammates. But now I’m looking on to embarking on the rest of my career down here in Houston.”
Camby seems genuinely excited about playing in Houston and playing for a franchise that still has a chance to make a playoff push. The hope is that he will be to add defense and veteran leadership to a team that is lacking in both areas.
He has known Lowry and Dalembert for a while and this offseason got to know Luis Scola when the two competed together during John Lucas’ lockout charity game here in Houston.
“I’m just looking forward to blending in with the guys. It’s kind of new to me,” Camby said. “I kind of feel like that new kid that comes into school who just moved from out of town. So I’ve got that nervous feeling with me but once I get out there on the basketball court it’s just basketball.”