NEW YORK – For the New York Knicks, a 1-2 record to start the season isn’t necessarily something to worry about. An injury to Tyson Chandler is.
Chandler injured his right knee in a collision with the Bobcats’ Kemba Walker in the first quarter on Tuesday. The Knicks said that x-rays taken were “inconclusive” and that their center will undergo further testing on Wednesday.
“We don’t know the severity yet,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said afterward. “We’ll know more tomorrow morning.”
The injury forced Kenyon Martin into duty on a night he was scheduled to take off. And if Chandler is to miss more time, Woodson’s plan of using Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire* as the back-up big man on alternate nights basically goes out the window in Game 4.
* Stoudemire has looked awful in his limited action. On Tuesday, he shot 1-for-3 with five turnovers in 11:13. Both misses were blocked.
More importantly, the Knicks’ defense, which has looked terrible in their last two games, stands to suffer even more. The team that ranked 17th defensively last season played well on that end of the floor in Chicago on Thursday, but was brutal at times against Minnesota on Sunday, and especially in the first half against the Bobcats.
“Our defense … It stinks right now,” Woodson said. “Defensively, we are all over the place right now and that’s a reflection on me as a coach.”
Charlotte’s entire offense was strictly pick-and-rolls for Walker and Ramon Sessions, and New York could do little to stop them, allowing 64 points on 46 first-half possessions en route to a 102-97 defeat.
After dealing with multiple injuries last season, Chandler had looked healthy and much more active in the Knicks’ first three games, averaging 11.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. He was back in Defensive Player of the Year form, with the Knicks allowing just 90.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, as opposed to 107.1 with him on the bench. They got outrebounded 46-29 after he left the game on Tuesday.
“He was really playing well,” Woodson said. “He’s got his energy and his strength back this year.”
Chandler’s impact isn’t limited to the defensive end of the floor. The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony and will get J.R. Smith back from suspension after one more game, but need their pick-and-roll game — of which Chandler is a huge part of — to keep their offense balanced.
“He’s a big piece to what we do,” Woodson said.
“He’s our anchor on our defensive end,” Anthony added, “so we miss him big time.”
Point blank, Chandler is the Knicks’ most important player. And if he’s out long, the 1-3 Knicks could see their season go further downhill.
So New York will hope that Chandler’s injury is minor. But even if it is, it’s a worry, because we saw last season that a hobbled Chandler can’t hold this defense together.
UPDATE: The Knicks announced Wednesday morning that Chandler has “a small non-displaced fracture of the right fibula.” There was no ligament damage and he does not require surgery, but HE is expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action.