(Long Island, N.Y.) A year ago, the New York Knicks were a much-improved bunch from previous seasons. No one is disputing that. To go from a perennial lottery team and the punch line of more than one late night talk show host to earning a playoff berth and having not one, but two players worthy of Fatheads is no small accomplishment.
But even with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, they lacked a large presence in the middle. Lacked in the past tense is the proper term, because while he may not be a superstar of the quality of his two new teammates, Tyson Chandler is here and will make the Knicks a force once again.
Coming from the Dallas Mavericks in a three-team, sign and trade deal, the 7’1″, 225-pound center will give the Knicks their first real threat down low since Patrick Ewing. That was a point not lost on Glen Grunwald.
“This is an important day for the New York Knicks,” the interim general manager said. “Signing a player of Tyson’s caliber – with championship experience – to this roster is an opportunity we could not pass up. His stellar play last season earned him league-wide recognition and helped lead his team to an NBA championship.”
The starting frontcourt will have all three big-name players but to fit Chandler under the salary cap, Grunwald had to move two players. Last year’s starting center Ronny Turiaf was part of the trade and veteran point guard Chauncey Billups was waived, opening the door for Toney Douglass to be named the starter at the ‘1’ heading into a late training camp (due to the lockout).
During the 2010-11 season, Chandler was a major presence with averages of 10.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.08 blocks per game. In the postseason, his stat line read 8.0 points, 9.2 boards and 0.90 blocks. Chandler’s numbers in 662 career games (465 starts) are not overly impressive with 8.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.35 blocks and 27.6 minutes, but he is a hellacious defender that has already been anointed a team leader by his new head coach.
“Tyson will be the anchor to our defense,” Head Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “The trio of Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson makes one of the most formidable frontlines in the entire league.”
Improving on their 42-40 record and a sixth seed in the Eastern Conference should be easy with the addition of Chandler, as well as Grunwald’s signing of 13-year veteran Mike Bibby.
“Mike is a veteran point guard who we know can be successful in our system,” he said. “He’s an effective player who has a long track record of leading his teams to postseason success.”
Perhaps just happy to be there last time around, the Knicks were one-and-done by the Boston Celtics. But that will not be the mentality this year. This is a team that is built to win now and going deep in the playoffs will be expected.
The East may not be as strong as the West overall, but is certainly top-heavy. The Chicago Bulls led the NBA with 62 wins, and of course the Miami Heat (58 wins) and aforementioned Celtics (56 wins) are also contenders, as is the Orlando Magic (52 wins). So the Knicks have their work cut out for them.
They’ll be a much bigger presence, though, figuratively and literally.