Sure, the lane looks like an inviting place with space to roam and a nice prize at the end in the form of a layup or dunk. There’s just one problem…Tyson Chandler is waiting for you.
Two years removed from a Defensive Player of the Year campaign, Chandler is healthy, strong, and dedicated to making life miserable for opposing players daring to challenge him at the rim.
“I feel good down there physically,” Chandler stated in the visiting locker room in Chicago on Thursday night. “I feel a lot stronger, more explosiveness to really attack the offensive glass, give my team second chance opportunities as well control the paint defensively.”
While it’s extremely early and champions are not crowned in November, Chandler is off to a dominating start to the season from a defensive standpoint. The 7-1 center is averaging 12.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots per game. His dazzling defensive outings against a formidable Bucks frontline and the Bulls 7-footer Joakim Noah was a significant reminder of the 2011-12 season.
“Getting back to where I was the first year I came here, coming over protecting the paint, jumping straight up. I’ve been getting blocks of late obviously but that’s not what I’m going for, I’m going to alter the shot and if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll block it,” Chandler explained.
An essential takeaway from the above comment is the “straight up” part. Remarkably, Chandler was whistled for his second foul at the 2-minute mark of the fourth quarter. At that point, he already compiled 18 rebounds, four blocks, and two steals. Chandler was also the key cog in a late 10-2 run from the Knicks in their opening night victory over Milwaukee at Madison Square Garden.
“That is what Tyson does,” Iman Shumpert, a defensive specialist in his own right stated. “We lean on him because of that. We gamble a lot so if you want to go in that lane I feel real comfortable with someone trying to go up against Tyson. That allows us to keep being aggressive.”
Some new juicy stats from the Sports VU cameras reveal that opponents are only shooting 32 percent at the rim when Chandler is standing guard. This is the best percentage in the league based on the amount of field goal attempts from the opposition (12). Chandler also ranks No. 2 in the league in blocked shots and 11th in rebounds thus far.
“The way he has been playing on the defensive end is giving everybody that confidence to go out there and feed off that – feed off his energy. And as a whole, it seems like we are all in sync on the defensive end, we talk communicate, and everybody is doing their job,” Carmelo Anthony added.
At the moment, the Knicks are No. 1 in defensive rating (89.9) and No. 1 in points allowed per game (82.5). New York held Chicago to just two field goals in the final period and Milwaukee to 19 fourth quarter points. The cliché statement is mandatory that the NBA season is a marathon and not a sprint. There’s a ton of basketball on the horizon for this Knicks squad but Chandler’s eye-opening defensive performances are providing optimism for a team in search of a title.