Adam ZagoriaTyson Chandler walked into Knicks’ practice Thursday on crutches and sat down in a chair as he addressed the media.
Just a few feet away, the man who will likely replace Chandler as the team’s starting center for much of the next 4-6 weeks stood against the wall and was soon swarmed by the press.
Andrea Bargnani figures to be the man in the middle of coach Mike Woodson’s “small-ball” lineup beginning Friday night in Charlotte.
“The beauty with Bargnani, he might not be as quick and as athletic as Tyson, but he can also pick-and-roll and he can pick-and-pop,” Woodson said. “So we [are] going to have to utilize that and I gotta grow his minutes. I gotta get him to 30 minutes-plus and see where we are with him.”
Woodson indicated his small-ball lineup will feature Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni in the backcourt, with Iman Shumpert at the three and Carmelo Anthony at the four.
The 7-foot Bargnani, averaging 8.8 points and 2.0 rebounds, now becomes the center.
“I did that in the past with the Raptors, when I was playing with C.B. [Chris Bosh],” Bargnani said. “And of course with Tyson out different guys are going to have to play some minutes at the five position. That’s just natural with Tyson being out.”
Expect this Knicks’ lineup to play an up-tempo style that also features the 3-pointer, something that Bargnani is not afraid to do.
“I think the pace of our offense, that’s what we’re working on,” Bargnani said. “We didn’t like the pace of our offense the last couple of games. That’s what we’re trying to get better at. That’s why we are going to keep working on it.”
Of course, Bargnani is also known as a weak defender, which doesn’t bode well for a 1-3 team that has allowed 64 points in the first half of its last two games — losses to Minnesota and Charlotte.
“He’s going to have to give me what he has,” Woodson said. “That’s what hurt us coming out of the box the last two outings and somehow we’re going to have to get better than that. We make a game out of it all the way from the beginning to the end where we’re not pressing at the end to get it done. So we gotta come out with a good defensive effort starting games.”
Even Bargnani conceded he must step it up defensively.
“Yeah, like I just say, Tyson is huge on defense,” he said. “Everybody is going to have to step up.”
Adam Zagoria covers the New York Knicks and Big East hoops for NBA.com and SNY.tv. He also appears as a Big East Basketball Insider on SNY and 1050 ESPN Radio. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.