When the New York Knicks signed Tyson Chandler to a four-year $58 million contract prior to the 2011-12 season, it seemed like a lot of money to throw a player like Chandler’s way, even though he was fresh off helping lead the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA championship, knocking off LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Looking from afar, the opinion on Chandler was simply that of a guy who played defense and offered little other value.
How wrong most people were.
Carmelo Anthony is an MVP candidate.
Amar’e Stoudemire is a six-time All-Star.
But make no mistake about it, the Knicks wouldn’t be where they are today without Chandler, who has proven to be the Knicks’ Most Valuable Player.
The thing about Chandler’s value is that you can’t measure his worth in stats, although the 11.4 points and 11.4 rebounds he is averaging on the season are quite impressive. In addition the Knicks big man is shooting 65.8 percent from the floor, which leads the NBA by a wide margin.
But Chandler brings so much more to this team.
In terms of pure leadership, while the Knicks did add veterans such as Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby during the offseason, no one in a Knicks uniform measures up to Chandler.
He’s both the emotional and vocal leader of this team. More importantly Chandler leads by example. We in the media have often criticized superstars such as Anthony for not doing the little things necessary to win. You can never make that statement about Chandler. Winning is the only thing that matters to the 12-year vet. It doesn’t matter what he has to do, Chandler does it to get wins.
Then there is the impact that Chandler has on this team.
Without the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, the Knicks don’t make the playoffs a season ago and certainly aren’t currently 34-20, just a half game out of the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Sure Anthony is second in the NBA in scoring at 28.5 point per game, but Chandler impacts the game more.
Look at the difference defensively when Chandler is on the bench. They aren’t the same team. With Chandler on the floor, the Knicks can be more aggressive on the perimeter, because they know he is behind them to erase most mistakes. He owns the paint defensively and that is a crucial part of why the Knicks are where they are right now.
Let’s talk rebounding. Chandler owns the glass. he is fourth in the NBA in rebounding and leads the NBA with 4.5 offensive rebounds per game. That is a crucial part of the Knicks offense. Also keep in mind that with Chandler, the Knicks are a lousy rebounding team, only 21st in the NBA (41.3 RPG).
Where would they be defensively and on the glass without him?
This game isn’t all about scoring points, although Chandler can do that as well.
The 11.4 points he is averaging this season is close to his career-high 11.8 set in the 2007-08 season as a member of the New Orleans Hornets. Chandler only attempts 6.4 shots per game. He could easily average 15 points per game if he got a few more touches.
But that speaks to Chandler as a leader. He doesn’t care as long as the Knicks are winning.
What he did Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors was nothing short of outstanding.
His career-high 28 rebounds and the way he controlled the paint showed that he can almost single handily dominate the opposition’s offense by controlling the glass. Keep in mind that the rest of the Knicks starters combined to grab only four offensive and three defensive boards. That’s simply Chandler carrying his team on his back.
Yes, Anthony, Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton were all crucial parts in Wednesday’s win, but it was a team victory, just the way Chandler would want it.
But make no mistake about it, the Knicks wouldn’t have beaten the Warriors without Chandler’s dominance, nor would they be in contention to come out of the Eastern Conference.
When you are talking about the MVP of the Knicks team this season, don’t forget to mention Chandler’s name.
He means that much. Just think of where this team would be without him.
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