The last few Knick games have been markedly different from the rest of the season. Unfortunately it hasn’t been the results that have changes, as New York has lost 8 of their last 9 games. The change has come in terms of the players on the court. With nothing to play for other than pride and ping pong balls, Isiah Thomas has mixed up the rotation.
The most noticeable change is the emergence of first round pick Wilson Chandler. A few weeks ago when asked by the Hawks.com to talk about the Knicks, I made light of Chandler’s lack of playing time. A few days later on March 3rd, Chandler played 20 minutes in a loss against the Hornets, his season high at the time. Two games later he was in the starting lineup, and has averaged 25 minutes a night. Chandler is replacing the ineffective Quentin Richardson. Coming off a promising 2007, Quentin is in the middle of his worst season as a pro. His shooting percentages are the lowest of his career (.420 eFG%, .440 TS%) possibly due to the elbow injury he suffered earlier in the year. Chandler brings something the Knicks sorely need: defense. While Richardson isn’t the Knicks worst defender, he lacks the shot blocking ability of Chandler. Wilson is the Knicks second best per minute shot blocker, behind Renaldo Balkman. Certainly this hostility allows him to live up to the tattoos on his arm proudly proclaiming “Ill Will”.
Most importantly, this move has given their 20 year old first round draft pick some much needed playing time. Until recently it was nearly impossible to judge what kind of player they had in Chandler. It’s difficult to judge a player until he faces NBA talent on a regular basis. If this weren’t true, the draft would be as easy as selecting the best college player. Chandler seems to be developing with the extra burn. He’s making less mental mistakes, and seems to be adjusting to the faster pace of the NBA. I’m not worried about his low shooting percentage, especially since he hasn’t logged 300 minutes on the season yet.
However Chandler isn’t the only youngster that has seen an increase in playing time. David Lee and Nate Robinson have entered the starting lineup, and even Randolph Morris has wondered onto the court. And although I previously mentioned that this hasn’t changed the end results of games, it has made the Knicks a different team to watch. There’s an allure to seeing young players mature on the court and learn from their miscues. I guess it’s easier to cope with a fledging player’s mistakes than a overpaid veterans flaws.