Last season, the New York Knicks finished second place in the Eastern Conference, and finished the season with a 13-game winning streak behind them. But they beat the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics in six games, which by many was regarded as a disappointment rather than an accomplishment. Then they went on to lose 4-2 to the Indiana Pacers in a series that should have been four or five games they way the Knicks played.
What was so different? Tyson Chandler was a huge part of the change for sure. Coming off of a 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Award, Chandler spent a lot of the 2013 season dealing with injuries. Though he had a few good stretches last season, he never was able to really get anything going. Not like the 2012 season, at least, where Chandler posted the highest field goal percentage of all time.
With the Knicks looking a lot different as a team and not keeping up with the major Eastern Conference changes in the offseason, they’ll need Chandler to have another season like that. So far, so good. Chandler’s defense through the first two games of the season has been a throwback; he’s averaging 4.5 blocks and two steals per game thus far. He’s been huge in grabbing boards, he has 12.5 per game so far, and kicking off the fast breaks for the team. On top of that, he has been really valuable on fast breaks, especially capping them off. He’s hit some big shots when the Knicks have needed them, as well.
Chandler, right now, is filling all of the holes that were missing in the postseason last year, yet the Knicks still fell short to the Chicago Bulls, who are regarded as an elite team. This is concerning to this point for fans. Granted Sixth Man of The Year J.R. Smith hasn’t been on the court yet, dealing with the suspension for marijuana abuse, and there are new faces such as Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace. As the season goes on, the Knicks will need a balanced and similar kind of production from Chandler, who turned 31 a month ago.
With Chandler playing at this level currently, the Knicks have played overall defense very well. If Chandler stays healthy this season and the Knicks finally figure out how to mesh after three years of experimenting, they absolutely can still be a dangerous team. When you’ve made the postseason for three or four years straight, however, you start looking past regular season play. The Knicks’ mind state needs to be gearing up for April, because that’s when they’ll really get to impose their will. Granted that Chandler is still playing by then.
Jon Bruno is an NBA and NFL writer for Rant Sports. Check out more of his stories here.