Source: Chandler likely suffers sprain

NEW YORK -- New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler left Tuesday's game against the Charlotte Bobcats in the first quarter after he injured his right knee during a collision with Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker.

A league source with knowledge of the injury says the Knicks think Chandler may have suffered a sprain. But he will be evaluated more thoroughly Wednesday.

It is unclear if Chandler twisted his knee during the collision or banged it with Walker's. The 7-footer was in considerable pain after the play, which occurred with 5:24 to go in the first quarter. He spent a few minutes on the bench with an ice pack on his knee, then limped off the court and headed to the locker room for further evaluation. Reserve Cole Aldrich helped him walk from the bench to the locker room. Walker wasn't injured on the play.

"We don't know the severity yet," Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said after the Knicks' loss to Charlotte. "We'll know more [Wednesday] morning. He's a big piece of what we do."

Chandler is arguably the second-most important Knick behind Carmelo Anthony, so New York can't afford to lose him for a significant amount of time.

The 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year anchors New York's defense. In the Knicks' first three games, Chandler averaged nine points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes.

"I just pray and hope that he's fine, he's alright," Anthony said after the Knicks fell to 1-3.

The Knicks were extremely compromised at center on Tuesday without Chandler. Aldrich was inactive. Amar'e Stoudemire was limited to playing just 10 minutes by the team's medical staff due to the tenuous state of his knees. Coach Mike Woodson also said before the game that Kenyon Martin would sit out against Charlotte as part of the Martin-Stoudemire platoon at power forward.

If Chandler is out for a considerable amount of time, Woodson may be forced to rely more heavily on Martin, Aldrich and Stoudemire. Aldrich is inexperienced and Martin has been limited by lingering soreness in his left ankle, which he originally injured last April.

Stoudemire is playing on a minutes limit of 10 per game as the Knicks try to keep his oft-injured knees healthy. The 30-year-old has undergone three knee procedures in the last 12 months.

Woodson was asked on Tuesday if he needed to adjust his plans for Stoudemire and Martin in the wake of Chandler's injury.

"I got a lot to think about right now," the coach said.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.