The New York Knicks will likely soon make official an unexpected splash, inking free-agent center Tyson Chandler, who with Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony will create one of the top frontcourts in the NBA. (That is, of course, unless a bunch of whiny small-market owners decide that they don't like the idea of Chandler joining the Knicks. Maybe if they cry hard enough to commissioner David Stern, he'll step in and block the signing).
Amid the complete mess that is the NBA in the wake of Thursday night's insane block of the Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers trade, training camp opens today in the build up to the regular season. For the Knicks, the signing of Chandler fills a huge need, but also creates one. In order to fit Chandler's contract into the salary cap, the Knicks will have to part ways with starting point guard Chauncey Billups. They'll either do that through a sign-and-trade -- unlikely since the Mavericks do not appear to have interest in Billups -- or by using the new Collective Bargaining Agreement's Amnesty clause. (I have huge reservations about the Knicks using the Amnesty on Billups, with just one year left on his deal. The Amnesty should act as the insurance policy on Stoudemire's contract until further notice). Whichever route the Knicks take, Billups will be gone, and there will be a void at point guard.
The point guard conundrum will be a focal point of the early stages of training camp. They will still likely look for outside help at the position, perhaps the Mavs' JJ Barea or Baron Davis if the Cavs decide to Amnesty him (uhh...didn't the Knicks already use up their once-in-a-decade "Overweight, out of shape player who doesn't give a crap" quota on Eddy Curry?). But rookie first round pick Iman Shumpert will have a chance to make waves during training camp and try to earn the starting spot. Shumpert is known as an athletic freak and very good defender. His offensive game is lacking, so it will be interesting to see how Mike D'Antoni handles him, as D'Antoni has been known to bury players with limited offensive games. Toney Douglas is perhaps another possibility, but he is more of a combo-guard, and struggled mightily in the playoffs last season at the point when Billups went down with an injury.
Despite creating a void at point guard to get Chandler, the Knicks finally filled a pressing need in the middle. The last time the Knicks had any semblance of a defensive force in the paint was probably in the mid-naughts with Kurt Thomas and Nazr Mohammed. Chandler is certainly a step up from those guys. An underrated aspect of the Chandler signing that nobody seems to be mentioning at this point is that it finally gives Stoudemire the ability to play the power forward position on a full-time basis. That's something that Stoudemire has almost never been able to do in his career. His body should take a lot less pounding if he can play the 4, and he will have lots less defensive repsonsibility with Chandler manning the paint, which is a good thing for both Amare's knees and the Knicks in general.
This whirlwind 66-game NBA season starts on Christmas Day for the Knicks, when they host the Boston Celtics. But the wildness has already begun with a head-scratching, roller-coaster ride few months in which nobody seems to know exactly what the NBA is. What we do know is that the Knicks finally have a viable big man to partner with their stars, and whatever else happens around the league aside, that's a darn good thing.