10:39 am Oct. 25, 2012
There are certain things any N.B.A. team wants out of a preseason.
Sure, you'd like to see the team win some games, but results are essentially irrelevant. There's some work on chemistry, particularly involving lineups that the team plans to use in the regular season.
But most of all any team wants to get through it without injuries.
By that measure, the New York Knicks' preseason now stands to be a very bad one, after a 97-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum was marred by a knee injury to Tyson Chandler.
Chandler's knee collided with the knee of Gerald Wallace. In a microcosm of how the preseasons have gone for both teams, Wallace was fine; Chandler, unable to put any weight on his knee, hobbled off the court.
Chandler will undergo an M.R.I. Best-case, it is a knee sprain, which would keep him out for a short period of time, to be determined. Worst-case, there's some internal damage that would require a far longer absence.
The problem for the Knicks is just how reliant they are on Chandler. Last season, their success came from the defensive end, not the offensive end. They were ninteenth in the league in offensive efficiency, with much of that success coming during Jeremy Lin's tenure. But they were fifth in defensive efficiency, trailing only Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Miami.
What makes that particularly noteworthy is that the four teams ahead of the Knicks were stocked with strong defensive players. The Knicks ... weren't. Of the top eight Knicks in minutes played last season, only Chandler and Iman Shumpert were above-average defenders. And a number of others, from Amar'e Stoudemire to Carmelo Anthony to Steve Novak to Jeremy Lin, all check in as below-average defenders, if not worse.
That reality manifested itself in the games Chandler missed due to injury last season; fortunately for the Knicks, just four regular season games. In three of them, the Knicks allowed 112, 118 and 119 points. The fourth was a season finale Chandler sat out against the 7-59 Bobcats.
Worse still, it isn't clear the Knicks have a Plan B for Chandler right now. His backup in theory is a strong one; Marcus Camby, signed this summer, is a Chandler-like player defensively and on the boards, though obviously not quite at Chandler's level. Still, the plan called for Camby to play when Chandler rested, thus keeping the Knicks from suffering the kind of defensive lapses they routinely did when Chandler sat last year. (It's no coincidence that Chandler, not Anthony or anyone else, led the Knicks in minutes played last year.)
But Camby has yet to play this preseason with a calf injury, and whether he is ready to not only go, but play extended starter's minutes, is very much in doubt.
That leaves the Knicks in position to do things like field a lineup without a true center (and worse by far, without a true interior defender), or throw undrafted free agent Henry Sims into the mix and hope he can hold his own. Neither idea, carried out, is likely to help the Knicks become a playoff team, let alone a championship contender.
So fingers are crossed, and breath is being held across the land of Knicks fans, as everyone awaits the results of Chandler's M.R.I. Not good.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Joe Girardi sat down with reporters to discuss the 2012 season.
Ichiro Suzuki wants to return to the Yankees.
The move to Brooklyn announcement came on Wednesday; Dana Rubinstein has the story of the political celebration.
Jeremy Lin struggled shooting the ball again, logging a 1-for-8 night Wednesday in a Rockets 97-90 win over the Hornets. But Lin also had five assists, three rebounds and two steals in 31 minutes.