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A One-Handed Marcus Camby Proving To Be Much Better Than None At All

By TERRANCE HARRIS, SportsRadio 610
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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Pretty much anything Rockets center Marcus Camby does on the basketball floor these days there is pain.

Catch the ball. Rebound. Blocked shots.

His left wrist is always throbbing as a result of some ligament damage suffered during Monday’s game against Sacramento. But Camby keenly understands his presence and all the intangibles he brings as a veteran leader are too important to dwell on his injury much less take some time away to let it heal.

So he keeps pressing forward because without him the Rockets playoffs hopes will surely fade.

“It’s tough,” Camby said following the Rockets’ impressive 98-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night at Toyota Center.  “Every time the ball touches it it hurts, every time it gets hit and it was getting hit a lot (Thursday in practice), but this is our playoffs right now and I can’t afford to sit down. My teammates need me to be a leader out there and that’s what I try to do.”

The Rockets certainly needed Camby on Friday night in a game that had playoff and tie-breaker implications galore. Camby, one-handed and all, didn’t disappoint.

He finished the night with 16 rebounds, six blocked shots and seven points in 36 minutes. But none was bigger than his production down the stretch, recording two clutch tip-ins during the final 1:05 that kept the Grizzlies at a safe distance.

“Those were huge,” said point guard Goran Dragic, who scored a career-high 25 points. “He had two huge rebounds and tip-ins. He is one of those guys who is very important to our team, especially in the paint. When guards penetrate he blocks shots. He gets rebounds and today I think that he won the game.”

And to think just two weeks ago, Camby wasn’t even in a Rockets uniform. The consummate pro that he is was going about his business with all the chaos going on around him with the Portland Trailblazers.

But Camby has shown in two weeks just why his acquisition at the trade deadline is so valuable to the Rockets playoffs hopes. Not only has he brought the interior defense and rebounding – the two staples of his career – but he has added some intangibles that hard to measure but essential to success like professionalism and sacrifice.

Though he started Friday night in place of Sam Dalembert, Camby has had to adjust to coming off the bench for the first time in his career and he seems fine with it.

“I pride myself on being the consummate player,” Camby said. “Whatever it takes to win ball games. However Coach wants to use me I’m available.”

Camby, perhaps more than any other player on the Rockets roster, is Kevin McHale’s kind of player. While McHale may not admit this, he’s the one player on the Rockets roster McHale could have seen himself playing with in Boston.

Camby is  a throwback in many ways and you can tell McHale likes that in him.

“Just having Marcus come in and Marcus just sacrificing so easily so willing to sacrifice numbers and all that stuff for the betterment of the team and just move the ball along I think it does wonders for the team,” McHale said. “He’s not searching his game on every play, he just let’s it flow and that makes a big difference.”

It’s just a testament to how serious Camby takes the reason he was brought here. The Rockets needed some proven veteran leadership as well as consistency in the paint and Camby was right for the role and even better only to anxious to fill it.

The 38-year-old veteran wants to do whatever is necessary to push the Rockets over the hump and into the playoffs even if he has to do it with virtually one hand tied behind his back. He will worry about what it’s going to take to get his wrist better when the offseason comes. The Rockets are already without leading scorers Kevin Martin (strained right shoulder) and point guard Kyle Lowery (bacterial infection) so Camby isn’t about to let his new teammates and their opportunity down.

“It’s pretty painful but right now we need bodies out there and this is not going to stop me,” he said. “This is like our playoffs right now. I’m going to be out there.”

And it was huge that he was out there Friday night. The Rockets (28-24) remain among the top eight in the ultra-tight Western Conference playoff race. Without Camby’s effort the Rockets could have easily been standing on the outside of the race.

But you won’t catch Camby giving himself too much credit, deeming his one-handed 16-rebound effort as a matter of “I was just in the right place at the right time.”

And while his coach and teammates praised the two huge tip-ins at the end, Camby basically passed on the chance to pat himself on the back.

“Just scrapping you know,” he said. “If you go20 times you might not get none in this league because guys are boxing you out, but if you are consistent with it an opening may open up and they opened up on those two possessions.”

Whatever the case Camby has teammates and a coach who are all happy to have his consistency and leadership here.

“Marcus is a just a wile old pro that loves to compete, that loves the game,” McHale said, “so it is really good to have him.”

Contact Terrance Harris at terrancefharris@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris

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