Tyson Chandler flashed his trademark smile during Saturday's All-Star team media session at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, full of life while addressing reporters from around the world.
He looked happy to have his son, Tyson Chandler II, sitting on his lap, as he shared the experiences of his first All-Star appearance in 12 seasons.
"(The weekend) has been great," Chandler told ESPNNewYork.com. "I've had the opportunity to reconnect with a lot of my (Team) USA teammates and also some other guys around the league. It's been fun."
Chandler has been trying to take it all in because he knows what's in store after the break.
"Just knowing that after this, it gets real serious," the center said. "When we come back, you've got to be ready mentally and physically to go."
A big question mark is when backup big men Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby will return. Earlier this week, Mike Woodson said Wallace (stress foot reaction) could practice as early as Tuesday, while Camby's (strained left plantar) health status remains unknown. Without them, the Knicks have had a thin frontline on defense. When Chandler has sat, opponents have strategically looked to attack Amar'e Stoudemire and Steve Novak's weaker interior D.
A source close to the Knicks said that while it's probable the team will "wait until after the trade deadline for anything, the key is their bigs." Kenyon Martin, Louis Amundson and Henry Sims, who's lately been tearing it up on the Knicks' D-League team, all remain available, but the 'Bockers would have to first cut Wallace, who has a one-year deal. Camby, on the other hand, is signed through 2015, so his release would be less likely.
Chandler said the team has done "a good job of maintaining" without Wallace and Camby, but he knows they are "key pieces to our success."
"Hopefully we get those guys back. We need them," Chandler said. "Hopefully they're ready to come back as we come back from this All-Star break."
In the first eight games of the season, when the Knicks went 7-1, Wallace proved his defensive value in limited minutes. In fact, at the time, out of the 218 players in the NBA who had defended at least 50 one-on-one plays, he held players to the second-lowest field goal percentage (26.3).
As it still stands, Wallace and Pablo Prigioni make up the best Knicks' two-man defensive combo -- with a minimum of 100 minutes played together -- as they held opponents to 81.1 points per game. Both represent defensive pressure consistency -- something Camby possesses and something the Knicks haven't had lately.
"We've got to make sure we're on the same page on both ends of the floor," Chandler said, who talked about the significance of the team's slogan, "Knickstape."
"It's just a bond," he said. "Guys get after it and look out for one another on and off the basketball court."
The Knicks also need to get on the same page offensively. Another source close to the Knicks said that some of the players feel under-utilized in halfcourt sets. Woodson's offense has favored Smith, Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton dominating the ball, while placing the other guys mostly beyond the arc as spot shooters.
Still, the Knicks have put themselves in position to be competitive as the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference, and they appear close to making more progress. They could have Wallace and/or Camby back soon, and Woodson said he's behind his role players to help them more.
"We're feeling really good," Chandler said. "I'm excited to get back. This is an opportunity to play with more healthy bodies and focus back on what's important."
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