Tyson Chandler- The Centerpiece

Tyson Chandler’s career to this point has been pretty amazing when you really think about it.

Think about the combination of he and Eddy Curry as the backbone of the Baby Bulls. The Bulls thought so much of the skinny giant out of Compton that they traded former rookie of the year Elton Brand for him on draft night 2001.

With impossible expectations for a developing and young core, the Bulls struggled to get on the winning track under Tim Floyd, Bill Cartwright and then Scott Skiles before making the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.

What Chandler always showed a knack for was energy plays on the backboard. Tips, offensive rebounds and of course blocked shots. He was a player that was relatively easy to keep away from the basket because of his slight frame early in his career, but he always  had the innate ability to grab the ball at the apex and his length gives him that advantage.

It always has.

Not only was Chandler underwhelming in Chicago, he was labeled one of the biggest busts in Bulls history and that’s saying a lot from a franchise who once took Marcus Fizer 4th overall. Why? Because the term “bust” is a sexy headline and players out of high school aren’t given the proper chance all the time to develop into men in the world’s most difficult men’s league. Some things take time.

So after the Bulls signed Ben Wallace they dealt Chandler to New Orleans for P.J. Brown and the Knicks own J.R. Smith and all Chandler proceeded to do was team with Chris Paul and win 56 games two years later.

After a brief stint in Charlotte where he battled injuries, Chandler was shrewdly acquired by Dallas where he instantly did two things of major significance to help the Mavericks become a championship contender. First he helped lead the defense from 12 in overall defensive rating to 8th and raised their field goal percentage from 12th to 5th overall thanks to his near 66% around the basket.

Chandler has had a similar impact for the Knicks this season defensively, which is well-documented, but despite leading the league in field goal percentage individually in historic fashion the Knicks as a team have dropped slightly in field goal percentage from 19th to 21st, a sure weakness that the front office must address.

But, to me, where Chandler is most impressive has been his leadership. Coach Woodson gets credit for accountability, but Chandler has tried to hold teammates accountable defensively all year long and for the most part has been successful and the numbers translate this. He knew when he came here he’d be the cornerstone of the defense and he hasn’t disappointed. He takes pride in protecting the rim, closing possessions and creating more.

As we say here all the time, bigs take time to develop and Chandler is the prime example of this. Much more, he takes pride in who is today. He’s no longer a bust because when you are doing what he’s doing now and last year that label is instantly removed.

Too bad ink on a newspaper can’t be.

As the Knicks make their push, it’s nice to know they have a player in Chandler who is a centerpiece along with the other players in the front court. He’s a leader, not afraid to hold a teammate accountable and will do whatever it takes to win.

The last Knicks center we could say that about was this guy…