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marcus camby

Marcus Camby Finds Himself at the Crux of this Knicks-Heat Contest, Oddly Enough

Marcus Camby.

Marcus Camby will be in uniform for the Knicks' season opener tonight, but after three weeks spent coddling a strained calf, he likely won't be ready to play much. Still, those of us who still fancy Knicks-Heat a bit of a rivalry are gravitating toward Camby as the arbiter of the rivalry.

Why? Three reasons:

1. Camby was a Knick the last time this was actually a rivalry. He participated in three of the four consecutive playoff series the Knicks and Heat played in the late nineties. He was there for the brawls and the buzzer-beaters. Of course, he's not the only one.

2. He's been talkin' a little shit:

“We both have dreams and aspirations of being there in the end,’’ said center Marcus Camby, a key free-agent summer signing. “So more than likely, we’ll see this team sometime in June. Right now, I feel we have a team assembled to play late in June.’’

I suppose that's not a direct shot at the Heat, but it is a suggestion that the team Miami handily steamrolled in last year's playoffs will be a top seed and meet the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals or something. Hey now, Marcus.

3. He chose the Knicks over the Heat. This is the big one. Camby was pretty much ready to spend his final seasons with the defending champs until some old friends showed up at the last second and reeled him back to New York:

“Honestly, I was going on the plane to Miami when Allan [Houston] and Glen [Grunwald] and Woody [Mike Woodson] came down to Houston,” Camby, 38, told reporters after practice Thursday. “So that’s how close I was.”

Miami had the promise of a ring (Camby's first) and — considering their frontcourt depth — probably more playing time to offer, but the prospect of playing lighter minutes and kicking it with his comrades from back in the day was just too enticing. Plus, nobody involved with the late-nineties Knicks could comfortably side with the Heat. It'd just be wrong. Looking at you, John Wallace.

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Photo: Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images