NEW YORK -- ESPN's Scoop Jackson welcomed Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields to his "Next Round" series in July, and he threw out a bold question for Chandler.
"Mavericks or the Knicks, who are going to play for next year?" asked Jackson.
Chandler laughed and said, "Oh, man. I couldn't tell you if I really wanted to, in all honesty. I'm not even trying to bluff you or be fake; I really don't know."
Fields smiled back and said, "It sounds like Knicks to me."
Now, five months later, Chandler is a Knick. At the team's practice facility on Sunday, he confirmed he had no idea back then he would be donning the blue and orange at the start of the season.
"Nope, nope, it was just a joke, which is funny," he said. "It seems like it always happens though. You joke about something and next thing you know, you look down and you're in that jersey (laughs)."
During the offseason, Chandler had substantial interaction with another Knick: Iman Shumpert. The pair played in two exhibition games organized by Bobcats forward Eduardo Najera in Mexico in early October. Chandler left really impressed with Shumpert.
"I thought he was very talented, a very athletic young kid," he said. "He looks like he's willing to learn, and you can't teach athleticism, especially in this [Mike] D'Antoni system. He can be special in it."
There's no question who's expected to be special immediately for the Knicks. Chandler should single-handedly remove the Knicks from the rebounding and defensive dungeons. Last season, they ranked 20th in rebounds per game (40.5), and tied for third-worst in points allowed per game (105.7). Chandler used Sunday's first full practice, with all 11 active players on the court, to instill that aggressive approach the team needs to have in order to be successful and compete for a championship. He said bad habits need to be broken now and not during the season.
The defensive-minded Chandler also set the tone with his effort on the offensive end -- not only because he's excited to play for D'Antoni, who he calls "an offensive guru." Chandler knows he'll have to be even more active around the glass playing alongside Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, especially Midrange Melo. More possessions, more jump shots, more boards.
"[Melo's] a scorer, so I don't care," Chandler said. "He can shoot as many times as he wants to. I'm going to go chase the ball. We need for him and Amare and those guys to be aggressive."
After practice, D'Antoni said he already felt Chandler's presence on the court.
"Tyson's obviously good," he said. "He makes a difference. That's a big guy."
Big enough to stand out on the Eastern Conference All-Star team this season?
Footnotes From First Full Practice
Chandler has no plans to follow Stoudemire's off-the-court footsteps, from fashion to entertainment. "No, honestly. I don't expect anything now, except for going home and getting good naps and icing." Chandler still needs time to take in New York City; he's really only been here when the Mavericks came to town. He said his favorite spots so far are trendy restaurants Tao and Mr. Chow. By the way, he's listed at 7-1, but his posture is so straight that he looks 7-5 standing next to him. That's probably the same posture that rubbed off on Stoudemire, who claims stretching his back during the offseason helped him grow an inch to 6-11.
D'Antoni on a potential Shawne Williams re-signing: "Well, we don't know. I mean, that's Glen [Grunwald]. I'm sure he's working on it and we're going to try to get the best player that we can get, and [Shawne's] definitely in that mix." Speaking of Grunwald, he's proving himself to be worth more to the franchise than an "interim" general manager. In fact, he's already in contention for Executive of the Year after landing Chandler.
D'Antoni on working with Mike Woodson: "Defensively we're going to do exactly what we did last year. The idea is to just get them motivated and keep them up there in a different voice, which can help. Mike will be great on the defensive end. ... Again, we're getting into a little habit of offense-defense coaches, but you coach the whole game. He'll help me on the offensive end and defensive end -- wherever we need him at. He's a very good coach, as the other guys, and we'll sit in the room together and figure out what we need to do, and do it."
Practice observations: When the media was allowed inside to watch, Woodson was teaching the players how to rotate efficiently to defend the corner three. That lasted for about 15 minutes. Afterward, they ran pick-and-roll drills in five-on-five, game-speed simulation for about 45 minutes. Shumpert's decision-making obviously needs some work, but his shooting form and athleticism look terrific. He jumps nearly as high from beyond the arc as Ray Allen does. After Shumpert was drafted, D'Antoni mentioned his accuracy from long range during his pre-draft workout sealed the selection in his mind, and you could see why on Sunday.
Josh Harrellson hasn't gotten much attention since arriving in Tarrytown, but he could see the court early on during the season for several reasons: He's a big body at 275 pounds, he can set strong picks and dribble around the perimeter with ease and without hesitation (benefits for spacing and initiating the pick-and-roll), and he has range out to 3-point territory.
Fields changed his jersey to number 2 to accommodate Chandler's No. 6. He also looked like a changed man on the court, resembling Richard Hamilton coming off screens and driving the lane. If Fields can be consistent from downtown during the season, which he was during practice, D'Antoni will never think about benching him in place of Shumpert or Bill Walker.
Mike Bibby, who's wearing No. 20, was already putting his foot down in his first practice -- with the media, and everyone, for that matter. "I don't have nothing to prove," he said. "Ever since I came in, people have doubted me. I'm going into my 14th year. I don't care what you guys say. I don't care what anybody says about me. I've always been like that. I'm going to go out and do whatever it takes to help the team win. If that stands for me standing on the sidelines cheering, that's what I've got to do. I'm here to win and play the role that they want me to play -- whatever it is."
You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.