Two reasons the Knicks aren’t too worried about Tyson Chandler
With one day remaining until the N.B.A.'s Thursday, 3 p.m. trade deadline, the New York Knicks say they're sticking with the group that has gotten them to a 32-18 record this season.
"I don’t think we have anything working," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said on Tuesday. "You always talk. We like the makeup of our team. As we stand today, this is our basketball team and we have to move forward in the right direction."
It's a statement built to withstand whatever happens in the next 24 hours. If no moves are made, Woodson simply believed in his team. If a move happens, well, something came up.
With Jason Kidd's shooting slump having reached 15 games, though, a shooter seems like a good idea, with players like J.J. Redick of the Orlando Magic and Jared Dudley of the Phoenix Suns getting discussed.
But the other major area of need, backup center, might have gotten solved on Tuesday. And that's extremely good news for the Knicks, who have been linked to both Jermaine O'Neal of the Suns and former Knick Timofey Mozgov, now of the Denver Nuggets.
Marcus Camby, who signed this summer to play the role of backup center, and Rasheed Wallace, who impressed filling in for an injured Camby before falling victim to injury himself, both practiced on Tuesday.
Having either player in place to give Tyson Chandler needed rest should be sufficient, come playoff time. Having both will be a luxury. Having neither could be fatal.
Chandler, remember, played 27.8 minutes per game in his season with the Dallas Mavericks two years ago, the year he won an N.B.A. title. Accordingly, he was fresh for the playoffs, and played like it.
In his first season with the Knicks, his minutes per game increased to more than 33 per contest, with the Knicks lacking a viable backup for him. He wore down in the second half, and was significantly less of a factor in the team's first round playoff exit to the Miami Heat. A wrist injury mid-year likely played a part, while the flu at the dawn of the Miami series didn't help, either. But clearly, Chandler wore down for other reasons as well.
Camby was supposed to be the solution to this issue, but he's played in just 14 games all season. And Wallace played 20 games for the Knicks, allowing Chandler to log a more reasonable 29.5 minutes per game in November, and shoot 71 percent from the field while doing so. Since December began, Chandler's minutes per game have swelled to 34.6, his field goal percentage dropping to a still-strong 65.8 percent. In seven February games, it is down to below 59 percent.
But without Chandler in the game, the Knicks are a less efficient offensive team by far. The defense is better with Chandler, too. That the defensive stats aren't more stark with Chandler than without has as much to do with Chandler's efforts to, at times, rest while on the court as it does with the significant lack of defensive stopper the Knicks possess inside absent Chandler or viable backup.
So finding ways for the Knicks to rest Chandler more without suffering is vital.
Interestingly, both Camby and Wallace provide better defense, and rebounding, than either O'Neal or Mozgov. And they have the added benefit of already belonging to the Knicks, allowing the team to use precious resources on other areas of need as they come up.
Betting on both Wallace and Camby, each 38, to be healthy and effective by the playoffs may be asking too much. But it looks like they're both sufficiently recovered that the Knicks are going to bet their interior defense on one of them making it to May.
Given the alternatives, that's not a bad idea.