Tyson Chandler hobbled off the court in yesterday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats after appearing to tweak his leg. Today the New York Knicks announced that he suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right leg, and he’ll likely be sitting out for 4-6 weeks. For a Knicks team that has been struggling to find any sort of identity this will only make things more difficult.
Tyson’s absence will affect not only the Knicks’ defense but every other facet of their game. He’s been their best rebounder this year by a mile with his total rebounding rate of 19.5 percent outpacing the second-best Knick by a full 6.4 percent. The Knicks don’t have a lot of front court depth and may struggle to protect the defensive glass without Chandler patrolling the paint. Of course he’s also the team’s best rim protector, and New York is short on players capable of covering for the many mistakes made on defense by their guards who have had a great deal of trouble maneuvering around screens to get in position to stop drives.
His impact on the offensive end shouldn’t be overlooked either. Chandler is an excellent screener, and he creates tons of open shots and driving lanes by setting hard screens on the perimeter and in the paint, often multiple times in a possession. The threat of him slamming down alley-oops in the pick-and-roll also sucks in opposing defenses, creating kick-out opportunities for three-pointers.
With Chandler out, Mike Woodson will almost definitely have to scrap his original plan to limit Kenyon Martin‘s participation in back-to-backs. For the next few weeks he’ll be absolutely vital and will probably need to start. While he did a phenomenal job filling in for Chandler when he got hurt last year, Martin’s much older and can’t be counted on to provide more than 25 minutes a night regularly without his body wearing down.
New York will have to dust off Cole Aldrich. He has the size and length to be a useful defensive player, but he’s much slower than Chandler and Martin and he hasn’t played particularly well at the NBA level so far in his career. He might be a bit overwhelmed by his newfound defensive responsibility, but he’ll be a better fit at the center spot than either Andrea Bargnani or Amar’e Stoudemire, both of whom should spend the majority of their time at power forward. If Woodson decides to ditch his focus on defense and try to survive the next few weeks by simply trying to outscore everybody, Bargnani at center could work for stretches but it’s not a viable option for extended minutes.
To help make up for the absence of their best big man the Knicks will also have to shore up their porous perimeter defense. With opposing guards gashing the Knicks’ defense, it could be a good time to give Toure’ Murry a chance at cracking the rotation since he plays better defense than Beno Udrih. Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert and Metta World Peace should all see their minutes increase as well since they’re the team’s strongest defenders (although Shump needs to be much more disciplined on that end).
Playing without Chandler will put this Knicks team to the test. They’ll need to come together and figure out how to win games without him if they want to grab a top-four seed in the playoffs this year.