Q+A: Marcus Camby
The Trail Blazers center talks about the changing role of big men in the NBA.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
Last season, the Magic led the league with 25.6 three-point attempts per game, a result of an offense that operates with jump shooters spaced around Dwight Howard. Even with arguably the most dominant center in the game, the Magic ranked 27th in points in the paint, managing only 37.2 per game. This is not an indictment of their center, but rather a result of the way bigs are utilized in today’s offenses, especially in terms of how teams are constructed and which complementary players are chosen.
The Grizzlies, built around center Marc Gasol and (pre-injury) power forward Zach Randolph, ranked first in paint points last season at 51.4 and last in three-point attempts at a mere 11.3. Head coach Lionel Hollins had to adjust to scorer Rudy Gay out of the lineup with a shoulder injury, and as a result, he made other teams adjust to the Grizzlies by playing to the team’s strength and size.
If we rewind to the 1990-91 season, the Nuggets led the league with 12.9 three-point attempts per game and the Bullets ranked last with 3.5 attempts. In Marcus Camby’s first NBA season in 1996-97, the three-point attempts for the league leader nearly doubled as the Heat attempted 22.7, while the Jazz ranked last with 11.0.
Taking a look at the three-point attempt leaders per game last season, Dorell Wright, a 6-9 forward, led the league with 6.3 attempts. Channing Frye, a 6-11 forward/center, ranked 5th at 5.7, and Ryan Anderson, a 6-10 forward, ranked 8th at 5.3.
I caught up with Camby to ask his thoughts on the changing role of the big man in today’s NBA. As a side note, Camby, listed as a 6-11 center on the Blazers’ roster, attempted 83 three-point field goals in his 15+ NBA seasons, making 16.
SLAM: There’s a lot of conversation about the disappearance of the true big man in the NBA. Do you feel like you’ve seen that over the course of your career?
Marcus Camby: I mean, definitely. There’s not too many traditional big men as you had back in the day. I think the last big we had was probably like a guy like Shaq and the only two remaining I see right now is like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. I think right now the game is taking on more of a European flair where the big guys are more talented, they can shoot the ball a whole lot more. And the big power forwards are guys like here (in Atlanta), like Josh Smith—guys that are tall, but also can spread the floor and very active and very creative with the basketball.
SLAM: You have a lot of pick and pop fours and a lot of smaller lineups these days. Do you see the transformation of lineups and guys playing different positions than they necessarily would have years ago?
MC: Yeah, definitely. The game has definitely evolved to more of a perimeter type game. I think a lot of that involves the three-point basket. I think when they incorporated that, teams are spreading out the floor and big guys are knocking down shots. Especially, when you get that matchup with a big four with a small four, you can bring that big forward out on the perimeter.
SLAM: In terms of your own role, you’ve always been able to fill up the stat sheet and do a little bit of everything, including throwing lobs. Do you feel like there are a lot of players like yourself in the League today?
MC: A lot of guys are definitely creative nowadays and guys just pretty much care about winning. I don’t pride myself on being a big stat guy, I pride myself on being a big win guy. Guys like myself, there’s a lot of us in this league—guys who can pass, shoot, distribute the basketball and do all the little things that go unnoticed on the scoresheet.