After tonight’s game against some team called the Charlotte Bobcats (I know, I haven’t heard of them either), the Knicks will have just 11 games remaining on their schedule. The ‘Bockers latest stretch of play has been befuddling on just about every level.
First there was the West Coast road trip that went just about as well every game of Oregon Trail I’ve ever played (many, many Cholera deaths). While the Knicks were lucky enough to escape without anyone falling ill to Typhoid Fever, injuries began to play a heavy factor. Melo’s knee became filled with fluids of god knows what origin. Chandler’s neck has become stiff and a banged knee knocked him out of the destruction in Denver. And Kurt Thomas played his damn heart out against the Jazz and now will likely miss the remainder of the season.
But as is often the case with the Knicks, they have rebounded just as swiftly as they fell, rattling off six consecutive wins (albeit against some slipshod competition). All of these wins coming sans Tyson Chandler, who hasn’t played a minute since his knee-to-knee train wreck in Denver (6-2 in his absence). I have seen some grumblings around the Knicks’ camp that the ‘Bockers are considering resting Chandler until the playoffs. If this is indeed the route that the Knicks choose, then I applaud the Knicks’ medical staff (a rare occurrence).
Chandler, last years Defensive Player of the Year, hasn’t had anything close to the impact on defense that he had last season. With Chandler in the lineup, the Knicks’ defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) is 107.4, and without him on the floor it is 106.5, a difference of .9 (according to 82games.com). So even though it appears the Knicks have actually played better defense without Chandler, .9 is somewhat negligible. Chandler’s real impact is felt when you factor in both the offense and defensive efficiency to calculate the net difference.
With Tyson on the floor, the Knicks’ “Net Efficiency,” is a whopping +7.1. So clearly Chandler’s presence (and absence) is felt in a major way by the Knicks. Yet this latest six game winning streak has gifted the Knicks with the breathing room to rest Chandler for the final stretch of the season, especially with Kenyon Martin’s solid play at center since Tyson went down.
Furthermore, the farther the Knicks drop in the Eastern Conference standing, the more I think the matchups favors the Knicks. If the ‘Bockers cling onto the 2-seed, which is currently a back-and-forth battle between the Pacers and Knicks, the likely seven seed is the Celtics, who swept the Knicks off the stage just two years prior.
The other three likely matchups for the Knicks would be the Hawks, Nets and Bulls (possibly without Derek Rose). Of those three, the Bulls are the clear landmine of the group since ‘Melo and Co are currently 0-3 against them with one more game to play this year. But regardless of Machiavellian playoff planning (which just never works out), the Knicks will sputter in the postseason or worse without the full-fledged boost of paint patroller Tyson Chandler. So if the Knicks want to even survive the first round (for a change), resting Chandler represents the best chance to succeed in this year’s playoffs.