GREENBURGH, NY — The New York Knicks were the fifth-best defensive team this season. Yes, the Knicks!
This is a franchise that had ranked in the bottom 10 defensively each of the last seven years and hadn’t ranked higher than 15th since 2001. And somehow, with offense-only stars like Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks vaulted from 21st in defensive efficiency last season to fifth this season.
The biggest reason? Tyson Chandler.
That’s why Chandler, even though he ranked 19th in blocked shots per game, was voted the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
“It’s simply because I’m able to get a lot out of my teammates and play a team game,” Chandler said. “I try not to gamble much and I try to do the right things defensively. And I’m just glad that it was recognized and hopefully, it takes us further as a team.”
After joking that he couldn’t have won the award with his teammates’ “poor defense,” Chandler seriously gave credit to his teammates for “buying in” defensively. And obviously, one man can’t defend five by himself. The Knicks do have other solid defenders like Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields and Jared Jeffries. Still, there’s no question that Chandler is largely responsible for the Knicks’ defensive improvement.
“He’s the perfect fit in terms of what I look for in a defensive center,” Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said.
And this isn’t the first time Chandler has made an impact on his new team. In fact, it’s the third straight year that he’s gone to a new team and helped them improve defensively.
The Chandler Effect, last three seasons
|Previous Season||With Chandler|
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
Chandler freely admitted that he wanted this award and used it as motivation as he worked out in the summer.
“I never set out for individual goals except for this one,” he said, “because I felt like if you’re Defensive Player of the Year, you’re changing something and you’re helping win ball games. So to win, I was speechless when coach told me.”
Interestingly, the last five DPOY awards have gone to big men — Chandler, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett — who entered the league straight from high school. And Chandler says his best lesson came his rookie year, from Bulls coach Bill Cartwright and teammate Charles Oakley.
“They would always tell me, ‘You can’t control offensively the type of night you have night in and night out,'” Chandler said. “‘Sometimes, the ball just doesn’t go in. But defensively, you control it. You never have to have a bad defensive night.’ And I kind of ran with that. So every night, I feel like that I can always have a great game, because I can always go out there and play D.”
So while Chandler is the first Knick to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award, you can give credit to two former Knicks for planting the seed 10 years earlier.