Posing for pictures, signing autographs and getting shout-outs for being back, Knicks center Marcus Camby was all smiles Saturday afternoon at the "Yes We Can" Community Center in North Hempstead.
The 6-11, 235-pound Camby, 38, who spent four seasons as a Knick early in his 16-year career and has played for six NBA teams, was in attendance to open the new facility. He spoke about being back in the city he once called home and is looking forward to having a long season.
"I feel we have a team assembled that can definitely make a long playoff push," the Hartford native said. "I'm excited about helping out this team in whatever capacity I can."
That almost didn't happen, he said. He was on his way to Florida to meet with members of the Miami Heat when he got a call from Knicks assistant general manager Allan Houston, a former teammate. Ultimately, that led him back north.
"I knew that it would have been very hard for me to put on that Miami Heat uniform, especially all the battles we used to have back in the days with Houston and those guys," he said. "I'm happy things worked out."
One of Camby's roles will be backing up Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire. In preparation for that, he met with Knicks coach Mike Woodson and Stoudemire, who was working out with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston. "Me, [Stoudemire] and Coach went out to dinner," Camby said. "We talked about a lot of things, just trying to get that continuity together."
Camby, who has career averages of 9.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 30 minutes per game, has been a starter for most of his career. But if he has to take a back seat, he doesn't care.
"I just want to come in, fit in where I can get in," he said. "If everyone . . . listens to coach Woodson, we should have a prosperous season."
North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman appreciated Camby's presence Saturday. "He has had success in a lot of different ways," Kaiman said. "If people can make that connection with someone like Marcus Camby, that gives them the energy and perseverance to keep on doing things."