Tuesday night, Tyson Chandler left the game in the first half during the Knicks’ 117-94 loss to the Denver Nuggets and was diagnosed with a left knee contusion. It kept him out of Thursday night’s 105-90 loss against the Portland Trail Blazers. This incident really makes Knicks fans think.
In a little more than a week the Knicks have lost Amar’e Stoudemire for at least six weeks due to knee surgery and Carmelo Anthony also left Tuesday night’s game due to a sore knee that he planned to get drained upon returning to New York yesterday. Tuesday night was the first game back for Anthony after injuring it during the Knicks’ miraculous comeback win against the Cleveland Cavaliers last Monday. Including Shumpert’s late return and Marcus Camby’s and Rasheed Wallace’s foot issues the Knicks have been fairly plagued by injuries this season but the thought of the Knicks losing Tyson Chandler due to injury is a situation that has flown under the radar.
As the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Chandler is making a strong case for a repeat as his rebounding has been extremely pivotal to the Knicks success this season. Overall the team lacks in defensive proficiency and Chandler’s ability to limit opponent’s second chance opportunities is crucial. His presence and size in the paint are equally valuable. Whenever opponents are able to penetrate the Knicks’ outer defensive layer, Chandler is there to step up and challenge them, altering shot attempts and forcing mistakes. Bill Russell said, “The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot,” and Chandler lives out that way of thinking to the greatest extent.
Although Carmelo Anthony has been the team’s greatest asset on the offensive end all season, Chandler’s contributions have also been noteworthy. Averaging a double-double, Chandler also leads the NBA in field goal percentage with .645 and is top five in dunks on the season with 133; the ideal ending to any offensive possession. Chandler is also tied for first in the NBA in offensive rebounding with 4.2 per game. This gives the Knicks an average of at least four second chance opportunities per game, which could easily make the difference between a win and a loss. He just seems to always be in the right place at the right time, whether to smack a missed shot out to the guards or bail Felton out when defenders collapse for an alley-oop.
If you could place a numeric value on Chandler’s impacts both offensively and defensively the whole would exceed the sum of its parts. He is an extremely vocal player who has the ability to motivate his teammates and reinforce Coach Woodson’s ideas on the court.
Chandler played a key part in taking down the Miami Heat with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals and if the Knicks are to reach the 2013 Finals, Chandler will have to be there to continue that role as it is likely the road to the finals will pass through South Beach.