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Christmas Countdown: Centers of attention

Continuing through Dec. 23, ESPNNewYork.com is running a series called "Christmas Countdown" examining a hot topic each day that involves "your New ... York ... Knicks!" as PA announcer Mike Walczewski says with slight pauses and strong punctuation.

Today's Hot Topic: Centers of attention

Amare Stoudemire came to turn the Knicks franchise around, from "negative to positive," as Biggie Smalls once rapped.

Now it's up to Tyson Chandler to help turn the team's worst stats around.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Tyson Chandler should totally change the look of the Knicks this season.

Last season, the Knicks were third-worst in points allowed (105.7 per game) and tied for fourth-worst in rebounds per game (40.5). And after getting swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, that's exactly why Chandler is the Knicks' center of attention.

While the Knicks' first preseason game on Saturday against the Nets didn't highlight any differences yet in defense and rebounding, that will come in time. But Chandler's teammates already felt his presence, even on offense.

"He draws a lot of attention already on the defensive and offensive end," Toney Douglas said. "He spaces the floor and does the pick-and-roll well for our shooters. It's good for other players to get open jump shots."

The Knicks haven't had a center like Chandler since the 2001-02 season, when Marcus Camby was still in town. In fact, Camby and Chandler are very similar. They don't need the ball in their hands to score, but once the ball is in their hands around the basket, they will score. They're also rangy, athletic, fast-break sideline fillers and potent pick-and-rollers, which is always the most important thing in Mike D'Antoni's system.

There will be some games where you might say, "Where was Chandler?" But, just like Camby, he was there all game, even though his stats may not be higher than 10 points and 10 boards. It's all about the intangibles. Chandler's size and above-the-rim play will allow his two All-Star midrange-shooting teammates, Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire, to have more room to create from 15 to 20 feet out. Not only that, Chandler will make Melo's transition to more pick-and-roll playmaking easier.

On defense, Chandler's arms and hands will feel like bullies. No matter what opposing players attempt to do in the paint, Chandler will increase their shot difficulty by making them do another, more challenging mid-air move. He will especially be a terror on the weak side, which caught Dwyane Wade and LeBron James off guard many times during the 2011 NBA Finals.

Off the bench, the Knicks have some balance with backup center Jared Jeffries and third-stringer Josh Harrellson. They will be helpful to the team in different areas. While Jeffries is as good of an offensive threat as Shaquille O'Neal is at the foul line, his defensive versatility and ability to draw charges are the main reasons the Knicks re-signed him. Harrellson, on the other hand, will become a D'Antoni favorite for his long-range accuracy. The rookie doesn't possess the length that Chandler and Jeffries have, but his size (6-foot-10, 275 pounds) and shooting will show in the pick-and-pop game.

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