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Marcus Camby all grown up 01.25.10 at 10:41 am ET
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WALTHAM — Marcus Camby has come a long way from his days at the University of Massachusetts.

He is no longer just a lanky, talented big man in the middle. He is widely regarded as one of  the best defensive post players in the league.

Camby led the John Calipari-coached Minutemen to the 1996 Final Four and was the second overall pick in the first round by the Toronto Raptors. And yes, he showed signs of dominating his Atlantic-10 competition. And yes, he set the career record with 43 blocked shots in 11 NCAA tourney games.

But then trouble hit. Following his junior season, the Hartford native was tied to two sports agents, a scandal that eventually led to the NCAA stripping UMass of its Final Four appearance in its record books. He had no future left at UMass and declared for the NBA draft as a junior.

After two seasons in Toronto, he led the Knicks to the NBA Finals against the Spurs in 1999. But that was his highlight as he played four seasons in New York before being dealt to Denver. He spent six seasons in the Rockies, earning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007. Another trade in the summer of 2008 landed him in Los Angeles, where he’s now in his second season with the Clippers.

Camby, who turns 36 on March 22, is one of the best defenders in the best basketball league in the world. A close look at the numbers shows that.

He is third in the NBA in the rebounding, grabbing 12.0 boards per contest. He has been in double figures in eight of 11 games this month, including 20 or more rebounds twice.

In a Jan. 20 win over the Bulls, Camby pulled down 25 rebounds. Exactly a week earlier, he had 20 rebounds in a loss at Memphis.

Then on Sunday, in a win over the Wizards in Washington, Camby had 19 rebounds while showing he is also one of the best shot-blockers in the game (see below).

But listen to Doc Rivers and he’ll tell you that Camby also can get it done on the offensive side.

“We say he’s overlooked, but it was three years ago, he was Defensive Player of the Year,” Rivers said. “So, he’s not that overlooked. Where I think people sleep on him is he is a far better offensive player than you think because he can make that little elbow jump shot.”

The Celtics won’t be overlooking No. 23 when he steps on the “Red Auerbach Parquet” at TD Garden.

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Preview: Celtics-Clippers at 10:39 am ET
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The second half of the season begins with what might be the most important week the Celtics will have in the regular season. They start with the Clippers but then run through a back-to-back session with Orlando and Atlanta and finish with a home showdown against the Lakers on Sunday afternoon.

With Kevin Garnett back in the lineup, it’s time to seriously consider how good the Celtics are, and whether Danny Ainge needs to make a move to shore up the roster for the stretch run. How well they do this week, and how well Garnett holds up, should help fill in some of the blanks in terms of what this team needs.

The two primary areas of concern are turnovers and defensive rebounding. They have lived with being a high-turnover team in the past, mainly because they shoot the ball so well and they have also been among the best teams in the league in rebounding. They still are a great shooting team, but by giving away so many possessions, and failing to recover them on the defensive end, their shooting isn’t the cure-all that it’s been in the past. For that reason, another big man would probably make sense, but there aren’t any P.J. Browns out there right now.

Tonight’s game is a chance to provide some breathing room in what will be an arduous test.

CLIPPERS (20-23, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 96.2

Points Allowed: 98.7

Differential: -2.5 (20th)

Offensive Efficiency: 104.5 (23rd)

Defensive Efficiency: 107.3 (18th)

Pace: 91.8 (20th)

Likely Starters: Baron Davis, Rasual Butler, Al Thornton, Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman

Injuries: Eric Gordon (toe, questionable), Blake Griffin (knee), Sebastian Telfair (groin).

CELTICS (28-13, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.8

Points Allowed: 93.8

Differential: +6.0 (Third)

Offensive Efficiency: 108.1 (12th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.6 (Second)

Pace: 91.6 (22nd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: Marquis Daniels (thumb) Read the rest of this entry »

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