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Celtics notebook

Camby still has time for the Minutemen

Email|Print| Text size + By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / February 20, 2008

DENVER - When the University of Massachusetts defeated Syracuse in basketball this season, Nuggets center Marcus Camby gave teammate and ex-Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony some strong ribbing. Whether it's checking television for the scores, wearing Minuteman gear, or getting reports from his mother on games, Camby still has strong ties to his old school.

"I'm just watching from afar," said Camby, who had 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 blocks as the Nuggets beat the Celtics last night, 124-118. "I keep in close contact with everybody.

"I haven't been on campus since I was in New York [playing for the Knicks]. Actually, my mom goes to a lot of games on the weekends and stuff like that. They do a good job of taking care of her.

"I love my school a lot. I also follow [former coach John Calipari] with what he is doing at Memphis. I can't discredit what he's done for my career."

The 6-foot-11-inch, 235-pound Camby was the 1996 Wooden, Naismith, and Sporting News college basketball player of the year while with the Minutemen. He led the team to a 35-2 record and its first Final Four appearance as a junior in 1996 (an appearance later vacated because of NCAA violations).

While the 12-year NBA veteran knows it won't be easy, he hopes UMass can get back to those glory days. This season, the Minutemen are 16-9.

"It seems like we haven't recovered since the year we went to the Final Four," Camby said. "We have to find a way to get some recruits in, some better players in. I think coach [Travis] Ford is doing a great job with the guys he does have there. But we have to get a couple players that can get us over the hump.

"It can definitely get back. It's going to be a struggle, especially in the New England area. They have a lot of great schools around there. UConn is getting a lot of great recruits. You still have [Boston College]. It's all about finding that one or two special players."

Several of Camby's friends came to Boston to see him with the Nuggets when they faced the Celtics Nov. 7. While they were able to enjoy seeing the 2007 NBA Defensive Player of the Year collect 17 points and 8 rebounds, the Nuggets were trounced, 119-93.

"When we played in Boston, a lot of professors came down from the university," Camby said. "I had a couple teammates who came down and watched the game. It was such an ugly game. I still had a chance to see a lot of familiar faces there."

Camby is viewed by some as one of the more underappreciated players in the NBA. The Hartford native entered last night's game averaging 9.2 points, 14.3 rebounds, an NBA-best 3.9 blocks, and 2.9 assists. While Anthony and Allen Iverson were voted in as Western Conference All-Star starters by the fans, Camby has yet to be named an All-Star.

"I felt I should have been in the game," Camby said. "After so many years of not making it, you get accustomed to not worrying about it too much."

All is quiet

The NBA trade deadline likely will pass tomorrow at 3 p.m. with nothing done by the Celtics. Executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that "nothing is happening" and it's been "very quiet" regarding trade talk. "I like our team," Ainge said. "We're all set. Nothing is happening for us." . . . Kevin Garnett, on how it felt to be back last night: "I felt young. I felt like I was 20-something, to be honest with you. Never, ever, ever take for granted the things that you love, because when they are taken away from you, you sometimes struggle with the reality and the presence of it. I learned a lot from this injury." . . . Anthony and Nuggets coach George Karl believe Rajon Rondo is a star in the making. "I know a lot of people doubted Rajon Rondo, saying he couldn't handle the point guard situation," Anthony said. "He is doing a pretty good job right now." Said Karl, "They have a little young point guard that no one is talking about. He's playing well, too." . . . Celtics forward Brian Scalabrine missed last night's game with a right groin injury. He hopes to be available Friday at Phoenix . . . Nuggets forward/center Nene, who has been treated for testicular cancer, began light workouts Monday.

Outdoor fun

The Nuggets and Suns will play an outdoor preseason game Oct. 11 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif. The 16,000-seat stadium, site of the annual Pacific Life Open pro tennis tournament, is in a spectacular desert setting. In the only other outdoor NBA game ever played (also a preseason game), the Suns beat the Bucks, 116-103, Sept. 24, 1972, at a baseball stadium in San Juan. "Everyone who loves basketball has played it outdoors," said Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien. "We think this is a great setting for this game."

It really rated

Asked how he ranked this All-Star Weekend with his previous five appearances, Paul Pierce said, "It's tough. I want to put them right out there at the top. But it's hard when you look back at your first one. And then you look at the one when I was able to play in Los Angeles in front of my hometown. I'll probably put it right there at third of the six I've been to. It was a great atmosphere. Everyone had fun, for the most part. What topped it off was one of the most thrilling All-Star Games that I've been a part of."

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com

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