By Ben Horney, Knicks fan since '94
Tyson Chandler ended January with a whimper, totaling just 10 rebounds in the Knicks' final two games of the month combined. So when he was called into Coach Woodson's office on the night of January 27th, the 7-footer didn't feel so big and tough.
"It was like being called into the principals office," Chandler said at the time. "He said, 'you're an All-Star, you need to start playing like it.' The next night I had a different focus about me."
The calendar flipped, and so did Chandler's focus; he began February with a roar.
A snarling Chandler ripped down 20 rebounds in a 10-point Knicks victory over the Bucks on the first night of February. His renewed focus was instantly evident; the glass belonged to him, and he intended to let everyone know. The very next night, Chandler plucked 20 boards again, this time in a 39-point rout of the Kings. He didn't just want rebounds, he craved them.
Two nights later, a determined Chandler went to work yet again, this time against the Pistons. When he recorded his 20th board of the game midway through the fourth quarter, Chandler had rebounded his way into the record books -- the last Knick to have three consecutive 20-rebound games? Willis Reed, in December 1969.
"That's what I expect," Woodson said after Tyson tied Reed's record. "He can't tease me. He's done it three straight games, so I'm expecting it the fourth game."
Chandler wouldn't quite net that fourth consecutive 20-rebound performance, bud he did grab 13 in the Knicks' next game. As insane as it may sound, the three consecutive 20-rebound performances may have not even be Chandler's most impressive February feat.
In the Knicks final February game, a nationally televised matchup against the Warriors, Chandler made it clear from the opening tip that the ball was his property -- he grabbed his 13th rebound of the night with two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Even Steph Curry's monumental night (54 points) couldn't stop Chandler, as he finished the game with a career-high 28 rebounds, just five shy of the Knicks' all-time record for rebounds in a single game (33, held by Willis Reed and Harry Gallatin).
When all was said and done, Chandler had averaged 14.4 rebounds per game in the month of February. It was a monumental month for the Knicks' big man, who had averaged 10.6 boards per game up through January. He finished the season with an average of 10.7 boards per game, almost an entire rebound more than he averaged during his first season in New York, when he was named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year.
While injuries unfortunately hampered Chandler down the stretch in the regular season, his mere presence down low has changed how opponents must view the Knicks. He's a true leader, who appears to be just as hungry to win a title as he was for rebounds this past February.
"My goal next year is to be number one," Chandler said in his exit interview after the Knicks were eliminated from the playoffs in the second round. "I definitely think we can do it. We came up short [this year]. You gotta be willing to step up and fight again."
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images