Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: Is Tyson Chandler playing hurt, feeling the effects of the smaller lineups or a little of both?
When Amar'e Stoudemire went down before the season started with a left knee injury, Mike Woodson decided to move Carmelo Anthony to power forward. That meant Tyson Chandler's interior defense became even more critical.
Fortunately for him, the Knicks' perimeter defense was so good through the first eight games of the season that he didn't have to work as hard down low. They were allowing the fewest field goal attempts in the restricted area (190), and the ninth-fewest points in the paint per game (38.8). But in the past two games against the Rockets and Pistons, the Knicks have given up 100 points in the paint.
Not only has the perimeter D taken a backseat, but clearly Chandler hasn't been himself. He bumped his left knee in the early stages of the Rockets game, and then Omer Asik went on to dominate. He finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Also, James Harden and Chandler Parsons scored at the rim without much pressure.
Then against the Pistons -- with Chandler wearing a left knee brace -- centers Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond got inside fairly easily for points and rebounds, respectively. In addition, Detroit was able to swoop in for several uncontested backdoor layups.
The Pistons' bigs were so effective that Chandler didn't even have a rebound in the first half. He seemed a step slow to the basket -- even up the court during transition opportunities -- and he even misread a couple of passes, allowing the ball to go right through his hands. He also didn't appear to put up much of a fight against his opponents whenever a shot went up. Overall on the season, the Knicks rank fifth-worst in second-chance points per game (11.5).
Whether or not Chandler is a little banged up, he's unquestionably having to work harder than ever inside due to the Knicks' smaller starting five and lineups throughout the game. While Rasheed Wallace is getting burn, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thoms have been hardly logging minutes. So Chandler is being relied upon a lot more so far this season, and there could be some fatigue catching up to him -- perhaps the reason for some of his mental mishaps.
Fortunately, Wallace has been a huge help -- he's one of the best one-on-one defenders in the NBA -- and he'll especially be needed to assist Chandler on Monday night facing center Brook Lopez. He's averaging a Nets-high 19.4 points per game for the 11th-best team in points in the paint per game (42.2).
Looking ahead, Camby needs to get into better game shape quickly. That, according to Woodson, is the biggest reason why the backup center has been playing very limited minutes. Once Camby's role is increased, it will definitely alleviate pressure off of Chandler.
Hopefully, Stoudemire eventually helps out down low as well. He'll be looked upon to become more of a rebounding and interior defensive threat -- two big areas of concern for the Knicks. In the past, he was sometimes labeled as "soft" for avoiding getting called for fouls and not being aggressive enough on the glass. In fact, he's never averaged more than 10 rebounds per game in his career.
It's a long season, folks -- and we're only 12 games in. A lot can change, more so positively.
What are you most concerned about with Chandler? Leave us your comments below.
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