Here’s my quick take on some of the issues currently surrounding the Knicks, who have lost three straight and could be heading toward tougher times:
1. They've lost Chandler. Chandler is simply irreplaceable for the Knicks. There are two guys the Knicks can’t afford to lose –- Carmelo Anthony and Chandler. Chandler isn't the team’s superstar and reigning scoring champ, but he is immensely important as basically the team’s only center; he anchors the defense and is vital on the boards.
Chandler went down in the first quarter Tuesday after Kemba Walker collided into the side of his right knee. He suffered a small non-displaced fracture of his right fibula.
The Knicks’ two best interior options now are Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire –- two veterans Mike Woodson had hoped to platoon this season in an effort to keep them healthy. Both are on a minutes restriction, and while Martin can and will likely have to play more, the Knicks would be wise to continue bringing along Stoudemire slowly.
They have Cole Aldrich as another big body to plug in, but the Knicks will have to see what else is available. Josh Powell and Ike Diogu were among the Knicks’ training camp cuts. If they wanted to bring one back, they would have to cut somebody.
Still, there’s no replacing what Chandler did. Check out Ian Begley’s breakdown of Chandler and Melo’s importance to the Knicks.
The Knicks have to hope they are in decent shape whenever Chandler returns. Over the next month, the Knicks will play the Spurs, Rockets, Pistons, Pacers, Blazers, Clippers, Nuggets, Pelicans and Nets -- all teams with size or talent (or both) in the frontcourt. The next month also includes a three-game West Coast swing.
With Chandler out, what happens if another big gets injured? Why didn’t the Knicks add more size inside in the offseason, especially knowing the Heat’s biggest weakness is at center? Chandler also could have used another body to bang with Indiana inside as well.
Bargnani is a 7-footer, but he’s an offensive-minded perimeter player who isn’t going to defend the way the Knicks need him to. He and World Peace now have to help Anthony, Martin and Stoudemire rebound. They could have used another banger inside.
Perhaps the Knicks can make a deal eventually for a big, but that's no easy task. Acquiring a decent big typically comes at a hefty price since you have to part with either a talented young player like Iman Shumpert or an expiring contract for likely another team's headache, either in the form of a huge contract or off-the-court baggage.
3. They need more Melo. The three-game slide doesn’t all fall on his shoulders, but Melo needs to shoot better. He certainly tried to carry the Knicks to a win with 32 points in the 102-97 loss to Charlotte on Tuesday. But he shot just 10-for-28 from the field and is shooting 37.1 percent overall.
J.R. Smith's return Sunday from suspension should help Melo’s cause. Carmelo should be applauded for doing his best to incorporate his new teammates and develop chemistry and confidence. But he has to be more dominant and efficient. If he had hit a few more of the fourth-quarter shots against the Bulls and Wolves that he normally makes, the Knicks might be 3-1 instead.
Melo is averaging 9.5 rebounds a game. He’ll have to keep that up, if not grab more boards, with Chandler out, while scoring more efficiently.
4. Kidd's in another castle. It’s early, but it appears Jason Kidd's retirement and move to Brooklyn is going to hurt in more ways than one. The Knicks miss Kidd’s ability to get the ball moving to the right spot, his unparalleled basketball IQ and, most important, his leadership.
Woodson has a bunch of streaky scorers but no longer has Kidd, who built a Hall of Fame career off facilitating and making teammates better. The Knicks lost a ton of veteran leadership with the departures of Kidd and Kurt Thomas. Melo and Raymond Felton are trying to fill the void, but they lost another key voice in Chandler for at least a month.
Hair today ... gone tomorrow. Even the Knicks City Dancers are on the hot seat after a slow start.
5. Their owner. As if the Knicks don’t have enough issues on the court, there’s the sideshow involving the Knicks City Dancers. According to a report by the New York Daily News, owner James Dolan ordered the dance team’s role to be reduced.
The KCD obviously don’t have anything to do with how the Knicks perform. In fact, this probably wouldn’t be an issue anywhere else in the NBA -- except when we’re talking about Dolan and what he wants, which is always important around here. According to the report, Dolan was beside himself after the Knicks fell behind big at home to the Wolves.
It's a very good thing Dolan cares about his team winning, and he has every right to do whatever he wants with the entertainment. That’s his prerogative (suddenly I picture the City Dancers grooving to Bobby Brown).
But with Chandler out for a month or more, Dolan may want to let the Knicks City Dancers do what they do best –- entertain the fans. Because if all of the Knicks’ on-court issues persist, the fans -– and Dolan -- will need a distraction.