In the NBA, you can be punished for showing too much emotion. You need look no further than Wednesday night's win against the Clippers to see that. Andre Miller (clapping after a no-call), LaMarcus Aldridge (clapping out of frustration) and Armon Johnson (uh... not really sure) were all hit with technicals because they let their emotions get the best of them.
But there's a line that exists between balling out and out of control, and Wednesday night, Marcus Camby walked that line like Johnny Cash.
The Staples Center, at least when the Clippers court is down, can be as listless as a sloth with mononucleosis, and that was certainly the case early in Wednesday night's game despite it being the Clippers' home opener and Blake Griffin's professional debut. That lack of buzz would usually be bad news for the home team, but in this instance, the Trail Blazers suffered too. The Blazers missed their first six shots before Camby, playing in front of a crowd that cheered for him this time last season, finally scored Portland's first bucket with 9:22 to play in the first quarter on a driving layup. The two points were nice, but it was Camby's fire that proved most valuable.
Sensing at that early juncture that something was missing, Camby took it upon himself to up his intensity level by any means necessary.
"I was just trying to play with energy and passion," said Camby. "We were a little sluggish in the first half and they jumped out on us. I was just trying to get us pumped up... I was just trying to get inspired on the road to play with that energy."
That inspiration manifested itself as highlight-reel blocks and fierce stares out into the crowd. There was chest-pounding and wide eyes full of incredulity. It was infectious and it helped the Trail Blazers get out of an early funk and eventually get a victory in the second night of a season-opening back-to-back.
Playing against his former teammates meant a little something extra to the veteran in his 15th season out of UMass, especially after being traded midseason from L.A. to Portland, something that had never happened in a decade and a half of work. There was a little extra pride on the line.
"They're my former teammates," said Camby. "I went against those guys every day in practice, so that was like a game within a game, playing against those guys. It's always fun to see those guys. Those guys will always be lifelong brothers for me, but we definitely needed this game more than they did."
Not to mention the Trail Blazers need Camby more than the Clippers do or ever did. With Juwan Howard now in Miami, Camby is officially Portland's resident sage-like veteran, which a team with designs on a deep playoff run needs. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge may be the captains, but Camby is the Don. He sends messages without saying a word, not because he doesn't have a voice, but because he knows which methods gets results.
"Just trying to step up and be held accountable for what I can bring to the team," said Camby. "If the team can see me taking charges, being fired up, hopefully it will be sort of contagious and people will follow suit."