Chandler finally takes a breather

ATLANTA -- The most blue-collar of Knicks finally asked for a day off. And Sunday, permission was granted.

Tyson Chandler took a breather against the Hawks. Until Sunday, Chandler had missed only two games and, in a season constantly interrupted by injuries to key players, he’s been one of the most dependable Knicks. Chandler has even played in pain for long stretches.

But the creaky wrist and balky knee, neither of which are considered anything more than annoying and nagging, were less an issue than his lungs. Chandler is the Knicks’ only true defender, especially on the front line, and so his value becomes a bit heavier for the playoffs, where defense and physical play becomes the standard. Therefore it was an easy call for coach Mike Woodson.

“He’s not really banged up. Just tired,” Woodson said. “We went through seven (games) in 11 days and he went through some significant minutes in that stretch, which we needed him to. He asked for a break so I’m going to allow that to happen. He’s deserved it.”

Chandler will return for Wednesday’s game against the Clippers.

“Coach and the medical staff thought it would be good for me to take a rest,” said Chandler. “I knew if I took this game off, I’d have four days rest.”

The season still holds a bit of intrigue, so any major lineup changes by the Knicks could impact where they finish. They remain in a virtual dead heat with the Sixers for the final two playoff spots, and that could determine whether they get the Heat or the Bulls in the first round. Debate if you will about which would be the more favorable matchup, but the Knicks, according to Woodson, will play with the intention of winning out the season.

That said, the decision about whether rest for Chandler carries more weight than playoff positioning has been made.

“For him, it is (more important),” said Woodson, “because he’s going to log some big (playoff) minutes for us.”

Jarred Jeffries will be shut down for the remaining two games, too. He’s dealing with knee issues he says are a result of “10 years in the league” but expects to be ready for next weekend.

“It wasn’t like I was playing a lot of minutes, anyway,” he said. “I was just holding it down until Amare (Stoudemire) got back.”