Camby sees Knicks facing Heat in playoffs

AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

GREENBURGH, NY -- Mike Woodson has no problem facing the defending champs on opening night.

In fact, he embraces it.

"I think early on it’s always best to play (the) best teams just to gauge or see where you are as a team," said Woodson, whose Knicks will open the regular season against the Miami Heat on Friday. "Our schedule is what it is. We got some tough opponents coming up. We can’t run from it.... We got to step out on the floor and be ready to play."

The Knicks were supposed to open up against the Nets in Brooklyn on Thursday, but the game has been postponed to Nov. 26 due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

So New York instead will kick off the season against LeBron James and the hated Heat.

The Garden may not be filled to capacity on Friday because of the transportation issues associated with Sandy, but Marcus Camby expects an intense atmosphere -- no matter how many fans are in attendance.

"We know it's a big ball game. They're the defending champs coming into our building," Camby said.

Camby was a big piece of the Knicks-Heat wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, both Miami and New York were among the top teams in the league. Both entered each season with championship aspirations.

The Heat, obviously, enter this year with the same title aspirations. Camby, in comments that may surprise most NBA observers, thinks the Knicks should as well.

"We both have dreams and aspirations of being there at the end, so more than likely we're going to see this team in June," Camby said of the Heat.

The Knicks are the oldest team in the NBA, with an average age of 31.6 years. So health will be a big factor in how far they advance this season.

But Camby is optimistic.

"Right now, I feel we have a team that's assembled to play late in June," Camby said.

The 38-year-old veteran was very close to signing with the Heat over the summer. He was on a plane ready to go to Miami before a chat with Knicks assistant GM Allan Houston, GM Glen Grunwald and Woodson convinced him to consider New York.

"In hindsight, I felt that I'm always a Knick at heart," said Camby, who played for the team from 1998-99 to 2001-02.

Camby also played with Carmelo Anthony for five years in Denver. The prospect of reuniting with Anthony helped lead him back to New York.

"I wanted to come here and help Melo get a championship," Camby said. "I know him seeing all those guys in (his) draft class (Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh) -- he might not say it but (with) those guys getting a ring, I know he wants one. He got one in college and he deserves one in the NBA."

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