It's been a difficult day for those Knicks fans who appreciate good basketball, defense, pretty girls, dancing...any of life's little pleasures, really.
Knicks Twitter was set ablaze Tuesday afternoon with rumors that the famous Knicks City Dancers troupe were being shuttered by Knicks owner James Dolan. The gossip became so widespread that well-connected New York Post beat writer Marc Berman had to turn to unnamed MSG sources to tamp down the rumors.
By the end of the night, however, most Knicks fans probably wished the dancers were the biggest concern at the Garden.
The Knicks lost their center and defensive linchpin Tyson Chandler in the first quarter of their contest against the Charlotte Bobcats. Not only did they not recover in the game, dropping to 1-3 on the season, but now they are in danger of losing Chandler for an extended period.
New York came out flat yet again with Mike Woodson's controversial "big" lineup featuring Andrea Bargnani at power forward. Charlotte jumped out to an early seven-point lead, but the Knicks were able to mount a quick comeback, thanks in part to the defensive intensity of Chandler.
After enduring a 40-19 first-quarter shellacking on Sunday, the Knicks looked ready to bounce back from a much more manageable deficit.
And then, disaster struck.
At the 5:25 mark of the first quarter, Bobcats guard Kemba Walker drove the lane and collided with Chandler. The two players knocked knees, and it became immediately apparent that the Knicks center received the worst of the blow. He limped off the court and eventually into the locker room.
As they are currently designed, the Knicks simply cannot afford to lose Tyson Chandler. He is the most irreplaceable player on the team, even more critical to their success than reigning scoring champ Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks are loaded at the wing, but they only have one true center in their rotation.
Further complicating matters for New York, Kenyon Martin—the closest thing to a backup center in the rotation—wasn't supposed to play against the Bobcats due to a team-imposed minutes limit.
The Knicks did not have their defensive anchor, and few of the players left on the court did anything to pick up the slack defensively, leading to plays like this from Walker.
Walker is a good player, but the Bobcats in general have been terrible on offense this season. But without Chandler they tore through the Knicks like one-ply toilet paper. Charlotte scored 64 points in the first half on their way to mind-boggling offensive efficiency numbers.
Woodson was unsurprisingly upset by his team's defensive effort, telling Scott Cacciola of The New York Times, "In order for us to stay in the race, you have to defend and rebound the ball, and we’re not doing that right now."
When Amar'e Stoudemire was on the floor against the Bobcats, the team collapsed on both ends of the court. Quite frankly, Stoudemire didn't look like an NBA player Tuesday. He's always been terrible on defense, but so far this season he has contributed nothing in terms of scoring. Stoudemire's line for the night included two shots blocked, five turnovers and one technical foul in just 11 minutes of action.
Things improved in the second half when Woodson turned to Martin to anchor the defense. The guy who wasn't supposed to play put in 18 tough minutes. For the third time in three games, the Knicks played better defense down the stretch to climb out of an early hole. But for the third time in three games, the Knicks offense turned stagnant in crunch time, and they couldn't complete the comeback, losing 102-97.
Where Do the Knicks Go From Here?
During the broadcast, it was mentioned that X-Rays on Chandler's knee were inconclusive, and that he would be reevaluated Wednesday. If he is out for any stretch of time, the Knicks could be in a whole lot of trouble.
New York survived—even thrived—through a regular-season Chandler injury last year, but that was with Martin playing big minutes at center. This season the Knicks haven't even committed to playing Martin every game because of his age and injury concerns.
The only player other than Martin who might conceivably man the center position in Chandler's absence is Cole Aldrich, who hasn't played this season and who didn't even dress for the Bobcats game. Forward Ike Diogu impressed during the preseason, but the Knicks cut him to keep Chris Smith.
Mike Woodson seems to enjoy the idea of playing "big" with Bargnani, despite the fact that he is among the worst rebounding seven-footers in NBA history. Without Chandler the Knicks were dominated on the glass by the Bobcats, and Knicks fans and bloggers couldn't help but take notice.
It might be time for the Knicks to focus more on their perimeter defense. Their two best defensive guards are Pablo Prigioni—who has lost his starting position—and Toure' Murry—who hasn't dressed for a single game this season. If Chandler stays out, the Knicks could play those two more and reduce the minutes of some of their weaker perimeter defenders, like Raymond Felton, Beno Udrih and Tim Hardaway Jr.
No matter what the Knicks do in Chandler's absence, it would be a mere band-aid covering a gaping wound.
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