The New York Knicks were dealt a cruel blow yesterday when they learned Tyson Chandler would miss 4-6 weeks recovering from a small fracture in his right leg. From anywhere from 12-25 games, the Knicks will be missing their pick-and-rolling, paint-protecting big man that is so crucial to their success.
In the wake of the news, though, Mike Woodson has given some glimpses as to how he intends to play his new, less-than-ideal hand. In a radio interview yesterday, Woodson said he’ll pretty much be forced to return back to small ball, which he notes has been the Knicks’ best look. In doing so, Andrea Bargnani will likely be moved up to the five while receiving more minutes in general.
In addition, Woodson said he plans to bump Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin’s minutes up while activating Cole Aldrich. Giving more minutes to Stoudemire and Martin is risky, but necessary for the time being. Woodson did comment (kind of) on the idea of adding another big man — Jason Collins’s name was thrown out there — but said he couldn’t say anything concretely until he talks to Steve Mills and the rest of the front office. However, increasing Stoudemire and Martin’s minutes runs the risk of injuring them, too, since they’re only just back into game action; their restrictions plans weren’t really fully utilized.
The Knicks’ small-ball prospects are somewhat intriguing, though. Recall the end of last season when Tyson Chandler went out, and Woodson was forced to go to Martin and Chris Copeland at the five. The Knicks actually defended capably, but they continued winning because the small lineups allowed for ample floor-spacing, thus boosting the offense to another level. Carmelo Anthony thrived, and the rest of the Knicks fed off the space he created by launching three-pointers. If the Knicks can manage to do that again, while pushing the pace more on offense, they may fare OK, even with Bargnani manning the five.
The small lineups, Woodson says, will also see Beno Udrih making a reappearance into the rotation. Spare for a few first-half minutes in Tuesday’s loss, Udrih’s been bench-bound since the season-opener. If Woodson plans on starting Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni together in the back-court, Udrih will likely man the point off the bench with some help from J.R. Smith (when he returns Sunday).
Again, if the Knicks can utilize their offense properly, they may be able to make it out of this stretch without too much harm. A quick, pass-happy, three-happy offense could let them outscore opponents, even if they will have difficulty stopping them. In the meantime, Chandler says he hopes to return in a month. Fingers crossed, but let’s make sure Chandler doesn’t rush it, either.
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