Adam ZagoriaOne day after a 41-point blowout loss to the Boston Celtics, the Knicks got some good news on Monday when Tyson Chandler participated in non-contact drills for the first time since suffering a displace fracture of his right leg Nov. 5.
There is no timetable on Chandler’s return but he said he hopes to be back by Jan. 1. Chandler’s original timetable was 4-6 weeks. Friday will mark one month since the injury.
“I’m hoping before [Jan. 1],” Chandler said. “If I can just get my practice time and timing and feel like I’m able to protect myself out there, then I want to get back out there.”
The Knicks are 5-14 overall and 4-10 since Chandler went down after a collision with Charlotte’s Kemba Walker.
Without him, they have lacked their best defender and rim protector and have been exposed in the paint. Kenyon Martin, Chandler’s backup, also missed the Celtics game with a sore ankle but is listed as probable for Tuesday’s game in Cleveland. Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Martin would start Tuesday if he’s ready to go.
“I felt like we’re turning it around in a positive direction with the two games before the last game and obviously, the last game was a disappointment because I felt like we were going to put together a streak,” said Chandler, who is averaging 7.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. “But I still feel confident in the guys turning it around and when I come back it will definitely help out and make things better.”
Chandler still has several hurdles to go and must participate in contact drills before returning. He said the limited number of practice days is also an issue. The Knicks, for example, have four games in five days beginning Tuesday.
“The tough part is we have all these games and not enough practices so I just gotta try to find ways to get involved and continue to condition and get my timing back,” Chandler said.
Still, he said he was “encouraged” by the state of his conditioning.
“Very encouraged because it’s a step closer to being back out on the court,” he said. “I didn’t lose as much conditioning as I thought I would have. I did fairly well today for the first time being back on the court, so that’s a positive.”
Said Woodson: “It’s very encouraging. We just gotta make sure he doesn’t have any setbacks. This is the fifth week. Friday will be five weeks so we’re right on schedule.”
The mantra Chandler and the Knicks keep preaching is that despite their poor record, they remain just 3 1/2 games back of first-place Boston.
“The truth is we’re only a couple games out of the division lead and when I get back healthy I know I give my team a better chance,” Chandler said. “And even when I’m not out there we still have a chance to make some ground up over the next couple games.”
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.