Tyson Chandler a perfect fit for Knicks

NEWARK, N.J. -- Mike D'Antoni surprised some people Friday when he called the Knicks a championship contender.

But it didn't faze Tyson Chandler.

"I agree with him," Chandler said Saturday after his first game in a Knicks uniform. "... I understand we just came together, but I would be sitting here lying to you if I didn't say that was my goal. When you come here, and you've got the talent that we have, that should be your goal."

Notice: D'Antoni didn't make his proclamation because Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony came back for Year No. 2.

He said it because Chandler is patrolling the middle. It's as simple as that.

"He just solidifies everything," D'Antoni said after Chandler grabbed four rebounds, blocked two shots and scored four points in 27 minutes of action against the Nets, whom the Knicks defeated 92-83. "The guy is a presence on and off the court. And when you have somebody leading the charge on defense and talking and doing all the right things, it makes coaching real easy."

To keep things in perspective, the Knicks were sloppy at times on defense Saturday. Both with Chandler on the floor and when he was on the bench.

They gave up 36 points in the paint on 18-of-28 shooting and allowed the Nets to shoot 48 percent from the field.

Here's some more perspective: It was just a preseason game.

"I definitely thought we made some mental mistakes but that's just because we don't understand our defense yet," Chandler said. "... I thought guys played hard, and that's what you want."

Sure, that's what you want. Problem is, that's not always what you get from D'Antoni's Knicks on the defensive end.

Last season, they allowed 105.7 points per game, tied for the third-highest average in the NBA. Opponents shot 47.2 percent from the field against New York -- the fifth-highest percentage in the league.

And Chandler, who finished third in defensive player of the year voting last season, is expected to change all that.

"That's why they brought him here," Anthony said. "That's why he wanted to come here, to bring that defensive presence, to bring that voice, to bring that confidence to our team."

Originally, the Knicks were expected to chase Chris Paul this season and next summer. But interim GM Glen Grunwald decided to change course when he realized the Knicks couldn't generate the cap space needed to pay a maximum-money free agent. So he went after Chandler, one of the top free agents on the market.

D'Antoni, for one, is glad he did.

"He brings us everything we didn't have," the coach said the day before Chandler came to town.

Now, D'Antoni is banking on the idea that Chandler can bring the Knicks a title.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.