Chandler eyes Tuesday return vs. Heat

Tyson Chandler plans to practice on Monday for the first time in nearly three weeks and, if all goes well, return to the floor Tuesday against the Miami Heat.

"I'm shooting for (a return Tuesday), barring any set-backs," he said before tipoff of Sunday's Knicks-Celtics game.

Chandler sat out of Sunday's game due to a bulging disk in his neck. He has missed 10th straight games due to the injury.

Chandler worked out before the game, running and dunking along the baseline. He said afterward that he still felt tightness in his neck but the condition of his injury was improving.

"I’ve come along slowly, but I’m starting to feel better," Chandler said.

The Knicks center has been out since March 13. He hurt his neck that day against the Nuggets after a collision with Kenneth Faried.

Chandler said the pain in his neck initially was not improving, so he went to see a specialist on Thursday. The specialist told Chandler that he did not need an injection to calm the inflammation in his neck, which is a result of the bulging disk.

Instead, Chandler took anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce it. He said he will not need surgery to repair the bulging disk.

Chandler said he was in "a lot" of pain after the collision with Faried but the neck issue actually flared up prior to that incident.

"It became excruciating honestly to where it kind of, couldn’t even move. But after a while of letting it calm down then it came to where I could walk around but couldn’t sit for long periods of time or move without spasming up or catching pain," Chandler said. "This is the best I’ve felt since so I’ve been optimistic that it’s been getting better."

Chandler hopes to practice on Monday. If he gets through practice without any pain -- something he hasn't been able to do since the injury -- he hopes to play Tuesday.

"As long as I don't have that same type of pain coming back (after Monday's practice), then that's a good thing," Chandler said.

The Knicks are 7-2 without Chandler. Kenyon Martin has filled in nicely at the center, as the Knicks have held opponents to 91.5 points per game during their seven-game winning streak.

"They’ve done an excellent job of not putting the pressure on me and allowing me to rest to get back because of the way they’ve been playing," Chandler said.

Mike Woodson said earlier in the week that Chandler would be back before the playoffs, but the Knicks will need him before then. They have a tough schedule ahead against several playoff-bound teams with more formidable size, including the Hawks (twice), Bucks, Thunder, Bulls and Pacers.

Here are some other interesting nuggets from Woodson during his pregrame presser:

J.R. Smith's resurgence: "He's playing at such a high level, but his game is well-rounded now. I mean, he's doing a little bit of everything. ... He's really helped us tremendously because when you've got two guys that can get to the free throw line and put pressure on teams that way, that really helps. ... We've given him the latitude to play. I mean, I've done that since he's been here and some nights, it looks ugly; some nights, it looks good. And right now, everything is looking good for him because I think he's starting to show everybody that he is a complete player, and can be a complete player."

Jason Kidd's play at backup point guard: "Jason was brought in here to be one of our leaders. He brings stability to our team and when things go bad, you could always throw him in and good things normally happen when he's on the floor. ... He started early, but he thought he would be better coming off [the bench], and we've made the change. I thought that was probably the right thing to do to put him back in a position to run the team."

The improved ball flow: "Our spacing is back to where it should be and the fact that Melo's still seeing some double teams, when that happens the ball is normally floated around. When the spacing's not right, then you come up empty-handed. So our spacing has been pretty good in that regard, and then just playing our open-court basketball, the spacing has been real good, too."

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