- Stephen A. Smith, ESPNNewYork.com columnist
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In the winter of 2011, when New York was in the midst of enduring a yearlong wait for what was believed to be the imminent 2012 arrival of Chris Paul, Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald shocked the basketball world by throwing a wrench into those plans and stealing Tyson Chandler away from the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.
The price tag was $58 million for four years. The cost was supposed to be worth it, because the Knicks would finally have a legitimate center to buffer their front line, at least defensively, for the first time since the days of Patrick Ewing.
But never have Grunwald, Chandler or the Knicks been called out to pay up, to pay dividends on a deal that cost this city arguably the league's best pure point guard in a generation. They've never been asked to validate Chandler's arrival with something more than a first-round playoff victory.
Until right here!
Until right now!
You don't miss out on Chris Paul in a New York Knicks uniform to watch Chandler average five points in a first-round playoff series, or register a grand total of 12 rebounds in the first three games of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
You certainly don't miss out on Paul to watch Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert resemble the second-coming of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, dropping 24 points and 12 rebounds on Chandler and the Knicks in Game 3.
"Honestly, we're doing [harm] to ourselves," Chandler said Sunday, the day after the Knicks' Game 3 loss. "I watched the tape myself and there are open looks. We have to be willing passers. You have to sacrifice yourself sometimes for the betterment of the team and for the betterment of your teammates. So when you drive in the paint and you draw, you kick it. I think we need to do a better job of allowing the game to dictate who takes the shots and not the individuals.
"I'm not saying anyone is doing it maliciously," Chandler continued. "[But] good teams wins basketball games. Unless you're a great, great, great, great individual, and we only have a few of those come through."
Perhaps it's time Chandler is reminded of the expectations. That, while no one expected him to provide the allure Paul would've brought to New York City, energy, spirit and effort will always be the mandate, along with rebounding and defense.
Chandler, the man Melo has personally called "a warrior," cannot assist in the Knicks' being outrebounded, outmuscled and outhustled. With the paucity of big men available for the Knicks, what good is Chandler if he can't fend off Indiana's big men?
"We can't beat anybody playing the way we played," Melo added. "We know what we need to do."
Chandler had better know, as well.
Nobody expects a center with career averages of 8.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game to be the perfect successor to Ewing. But you can't have Chandler looking demoralized because of Hibbert as the series heads to Game 4 on Tuesday night with the Pacers leading 2-1.
More than anything else, Chandler can't allow the Knicks to go home early in these playoffs with fingers pointing at him, his limitations, his absence of production. Because all that will do is provoke questions, intrigue, inquiry.
That means we'll start thinking about Chris Paul again and why, exactly, he is not here wearing a New York Knicks uniform, assisting on all those points Melo is expected to score.
You think previous offseasons for the Knicks were unpleasant?
You don't know the half of it.
If Tyson Chandler doesn't do something, fans will wonder what could've been.