Tyson Chandler has undeservedly taken a lot of the heat for the “early” playoff exit by the New York Knicks, but he’s a former defensive player of the year and deserves the city’s respect.
In New York, there’s always a finger to point at somebody, and the way Chandler faded down the stretch last season makes him an easy target. Yes, KG ate him up for over 13 boards a game in the first round. Yes, he turned Roy Hibbert in to Hakeem Olajuwon reincarnated in the next. Yes, his wiry frame and reckless style leave him susceptible to injury. But lets not act like the Knicks are a better team without him.
I would say that if Tyson is run out of town, it might take forever to get another legitimate big man here to replace him, but with the way the organization throws money around, I suppose it would only be a matter of time before the Knicks unloaded on somebody else. Still, the bad rap Tyson has received since a couple of bad postseason series borders on ridiculous. At this time a year ago, he was lauded in this town for his Defensive Player of the Year Award. He successfully changed the culture of a randomly jumbled group left over from the “No D” D’Antoni regime to a fringe top-ten defense under Mike Woodson. Like it or not, he’s the heart and sole of this team. Dont believe me? Turn up the volume on your TV during next year’s telecasts and you’ll be able to hear Chandler barking out directions and increasing his teammate’s awareness on the defensive end (and complaining to the referees, but we’ll save that for a different day). He was as much of a factor as anybody else on the Knicks roster in last year’s surprisingly complaint-free regular season, until injuries finally caught up with him.
It’s literally impossible for Chandler to stay healthy for a full 82 games, but while most people attribute that as a negative, I think it represents the pride and vigor that he plays with. He may not be one of the league’s most feared shot blockers, but the thin frame that keeps Tyson in the trainer’s room is what gives him the length to change shots and make him an active defender. Plus, we can’t get enough of the patented tap out rebounds. So while most are bickering about his no-show in March, April, and May last season, lets instead just consider it a lesson taught about keeping the necessary pieces fresh and ready to roll for the next postseason.
The most obvious target painted on Chandler’s back is attributed to his lack of offensive polish, but it’s not like he’s totally useless. You don’t lead the league in field goal percentage by accident and he’s developed quite the chemistry with Raymond Felton on the pick and roll lobs. Is he ever going to light his opponent up and put the Knicks on his back en route to victory? Doubtful. But he’s not going to make it easy on opposing bigs either, and I’ll take guy who’s guaranteed to show up on defense every time, especially at the center position.
Tyson has heard it all this offseason, from the Knicks inability to amnesty Amar’e being the demise of this era to listing Marcin Gortat and Chris Kaman as suitable replacements. Sure, if the Knicks never amnestied Chauncey Billups and signed Tyson it’s conceivable that Chris Paul would be suiting up in blue and orange, but what’s the point of putting up 130 points a night if you’re giving up 131? From this moment on, TOK is erasing last year’s playoff no-show from our memories, and chalking it up as a mishap. You don’t have to like him as a player, but understand that Chandler is what makes the defense work, and without him we’d be taking a step back in to the Timofey Mozgov and Ronny Turiaf days.