Chandler, the rugged 7-foot-1 defender who last year helped the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA crown, said he had agreed to a four-year contract with the Knicks, who still had to juggle their roster to fit him in under the salary cap.
Those remaining details did not diminish the enthusiasm of coach Mike D’Antoni and high scoring forwards Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, who spoke to reporters after the team’s first practice session about adding a missing ingredient.
“The team is much better,” a beaming D’Antoni said about adding Chandler to a club that made the playoffs last year with a 42-40 mark.
“It brings everything that we didn’t have. It will shore up our defense, our rebounding, he is a great teammate, the intangibles are off the chart,” added D’Antoni, without actually naming Chandler.
“He’s a great complement for Carmelo and Amar’e about defending. He’s improved his offense every year. He finishes at the rim, catch and finish, and he won a championship.
“We got a lot better real quick.”
Anthony and Stoudemire, who averaged a combined 51.6 points for New York, were not shy about praising Chandler by name.
“Tyson is a phenomenal player and with his experience last year of winning a championship. He’s definitely going to help us,” said power forward Stoudemire.
“We definitely were focused on becoming a better defensive team. We were looking for a center and Tyson Chandler is a perfect fit for us. We’re looking to build a championship caliber team and with guys that we have we’re on the right track.”
Chandler, 29, averaged 10.1 points and 9.4 rebounds last season for Dallas, and 8.0 points with 9.2 boards in their playoff run.
Anthony said it was unfortunate that veteran guard Chauncey Billups, who came to New York from Denver with Anthony in a mega-trade last season, would be an odd man out to make salary cap room for Chandler, but that the team would be improved.
“Tyson, he’s established himself as a dominant force on the defensive end,” said Anthony. “He showed that on the biggest stage in sports last year in the championship.
“Tyson brings a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm to the basketball court. I think he would do the same thing that he did in Dallas in New York.”
D’Antoni said that Toney Douglas would be installed as the point guard with Billups a casualty of the Chandler move, but that the offense could also be worked through Anthony.
“Melo (Anthony) will be doing the pick and rolls more and that’s a good thing, because Melo is one of the best passers we have,” he said.
D’Antoni said the club had envisioned other possible moves, including saving cap space for a run at next year’s free agent class, that might include coveted point guard Chris Paul.
“Why save it (cap space)? You’re getting a great player that we need,” said the coach. “There’d be no reason to bypass this to chase a dream. This is a dream.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)