Tyson Chandler has only played in four games this season since suffering a broken fibula in early November. Since his injury, the New York Knicks are 6-15 and are in the basement of the Eastern Conference. Most attribute the Knicks’ record to poor guard play rather than interior defense. However, the Knicks defense as a whole is impacted with the absence of Chandler.
As Knicks’ fans witnessed tonight, and quite often since Chandler’s injury, opposing guards are breaking down the defense at will (Bradley Beal, John Wall, and Martell Webster had over 20 points tonight). Yes, much of this burden falls on the Knicks’ guards, but it must not be forgotten how much a healthy Tyson Chandler impacts the entire team defense.
Chandler brings a hard-nosed veteran leadership that New York just doesn’t have right now. Being one of the only players on the Knicks to win an NBA Championship, Chandler knows what it takes to win in the NBA. Just ask his Dallas Mavericks teammates. When healthy, the seven-footer makes the Knicks a totally different team than has been displayed early on in the 2013-14 season.
A big reason the Knicks have struggled thus far is the teams’ lack of tenacity on the defensive end of the court. Knicks’ guards are having a hard time fighting through screens, while New York’s big men have found it difficult to control the paint. This all changes with Tyson Chandler’s healthy return.
When Chandler is on the court, his presence in the paint is felt. The center has averaged 1.5 blocks and 10.2 rebounds per game during his time in New York. He understands that although scoring gets more attention, defense wins championships.
Chandler allows the Knicks’ guards to play their assignments more closely, knowing that help is behind them. He also allows bigger players like Andrea Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony to get back in transition faster rather than having to stay back to secure rebounds. Lets face it; although Bargnani is seven-feet tall he is no fearsome force in the paint.
Scoring is Bargnani’s job. Defense is Chandler’s job. With a healthy return of the former Defensive Player of the Year, the New York Knicks can get back to playing team defense. Chandler’s presence on the court allows his teammates to do their jobs more effectively, making the Knicks a much better team overall. The big man just needs to get back before the Knicks dig a hole too deep to dig themselves out of.