You could hear a pin drop in the New York Knicks locker room after they lost 102-97 to Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday. Despite allowing 102 points to a team that came in to the game averaging a league worst 85 points a game, the Knicks were somber for another reason. Their defensive anchor, Tyson Chandler, was injured in the first quarter when Kemba Walker collapsed into Chandler’s right leg.
Chandler limped off the court with his knee wrapped in ice and did not return. X rays were inconclusive, meaning the Knicks had to wait for an MRI on Wednesday. It ended up being a good news, bad news situation for the Knicks. The MRI revealed Chandler suffered a small non-displaced fracture of his right fibula, but he is only expected to miss 4-6 weeks. This is certainly not good news for a team that was already struggling to defend the paint and rebound, but if Chandler had been forced to miss further time the Knicks’ playoff standing would be in jeopardy.
As it stands, the Knicks are 1-3 after losing three straight games. The Knicks were embarrassed by the Timberwolves and Bobcats at home. After holding their first two opponents to 83 and 82 points respectively, the Knicks allowed 109 to Minnesota and 102 to the lowly Bobcats.
The Knicks have also been getting off to slow starts. They were down 40-19 after 1 quarter against the Timberwolves. Similarly the Knicks allowed the Bobcats to score 31 points in the first quarter en route to a 64-54 halftime deficit.
The injury to Chandler has forced Mike Woodson to make a lineup change. On Wednesday, Woodson said he will go back to a small lineup with Chandler’s injury. This means Andrea Bargnani will play the center, with Anthony, Shumpert, Prigioni, and Felton filling out the rest of the starting 5. This could be a blessing in disguise — Anthony did win the scoring title playing power forward last season — but the defense is another story.
The Knicks were already struggling to keep opposing teams from scoring in the paint with Chandler. Inserting the offensive minded Bargnani in his position could make things worse. The Knicks are allowing 31.8 more points per 100 possessions with Bargnani on the floor. Bargnani also sports a rebounding of rate of 5.8, which would be the lowest ever for a 7-footer in a full season.
Bargnani has never been known for his defense, so the Knicks will have to try and compensate by using their advantage on offense. Carmelo Anthony — who is shooting 37% from the field and 30% from three — must regain his shooting stroke. With Bargnani on the floor the Knicks should be able to space the floor. This allows Anthony to take advantage of isolation opportunities and find open teammates. The rest of the Knicks have to knock down the open shots. The Knicks are averaging 24.3 threes a game and only converting an average of 7.3.
The next 4-6 weeks will be a test for the Knicks. With A’mare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin on minutes limits Mike Woodson will have to get creative with the rotations. Cole Aldrich — who did not play in the first 4 games — might see playing time. The Knicks could also look to the free agent market to sign a big man until Chandler returns.
The Knicks’ new starting lineup will see their first action tomorrow when they look to exact revenge against the Charlotte Bobcats.