Tyson Chandler does not have much in the way of a back-to-the-basket offensive game, and as a result, his abilities at that end of the court tend to get shortchanged. The lack of a few effective post-up moves does not mean the Knicks center is not really, really good on offense, though, and against the Celtics on Saturday, he showed how.
Few big men are as explosive out of the pick-and-roll as Chandler. Whether paired with Raymond Felton or another Knicks point guard, Chandler turned screen after screen into lob dunk after lob dunk in racking up 16 points in less than 26 minutes of playing time. He even turned non-pick-and-roll plays into easy baskets or trips to the foul line during the preseason matchup in Hartford, Conn. In so doing, Chandler single-handedly revealed the challenges the Celtics will face if they choose to run with Jared Sullinger or another undersized player at center.
No matter what Shaquille O'Neal may say, being a "pick-and-roll player" is not a bad thing. Running the pick-and-roll actually can be tougher for a big man, since there are so many steps. He first needs to set a legal screen, then read both defenders to decide whether to roll to the hoop, pop out for a jumper or rescreen if the dribbler does not find a dribbling or passing lane. Considering all those steps, simply catching the ball on the block and bulling one's way to the hoop is a lot less complicated.
That is why Dwight Howard could pose all sorts of problems for the Celtics or any other opponent this season, provided Kobe Bryant lets Mike Brown allow Steve Nash to lead the offense. (Yeah, we said it.) Chandler is a great finisher out of the pick-and-roll, but Howard is outstanding. Throwing a 6-foot-9 power forward like Sullinger or a relatively immobile 7-footer like Darko Milicic at Howard could be bad news for the Celtics, who plan to have to worry about these things in the Finals.
NOT A KIDD ANYMORE
Either Knicks coach Mike Woodson was willing to go to laughable lengths to win Saturday's game, or Jason Kidd has fallen into the abyss. The 19th-year veteran was on the floor for all of the fourth quarter and overtime against an all-rookie Celtics lineup comprised of Dionte Christmas, Jamar Smith, Kris Joseph, Micah Downs and Sullinger (later replaced by Fab Melo when Sullinger fouled out).
Celtics coach Doc Rivers clearly wanted to see how his collection of young guys would respond in a close game, and New York certainly had some youngsters of its own. Chris Copeland, a D-League veteran out of Colorado, had 21 points in the winning effort. But there was Kidd, 39, along with 3-point specialist Steve Novak, playing nearly 40 minutes in a game that did not matter.
The Knicks are shorthanded due to the variety of ailments to Amar'e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace and J.R. Smith, but they had plenty of bodies to relieve Kidd. Mychel Thompson barely played 20 minutes, and Pablo Prigioni, a 35-year-old Argentine and veteran of the Spanish league, needs all the work he can find to get accustomed to the NBA game. Whatever the reason, it was somewhat depressing to see Smith or Christmas frantically trying to get their teammates into their offensive sets while Kidd calmly directed the Knicks' sets in a meaningless victory.
LIVING IN THE PASS
Listen, Sullinger can rebound. Anybody who has not figured that out after three preseason games simply has not been paying attention. Other areas of Sullinger's game, from his jump shot to his court vision, seem to have gotten overlooked.
Sullinger made the Knicks pay when he was double-teamed Saturday. He calmly and alertly tossed the ball to his open teammate, even when that teammate was on the other side of the floor.
"I've seen him play against Austin [Rivers] at least five times in AAU games, and they try to trap him every single possession, so he's seen every coverage that you can see," Rivers said Friday. "He's had to think his way through it. That's served him well."
Sullinger did not read every defense perfectly. Along with 14 points and seven rebounds, he also had three turnovers (and six fouls), but keep in mind that he is a rookie working out the differences between college and the pros. The fact that he recognized the defense and moved to adjust to it illustrates the high basketball IQ all his teammates have been raving about.
COURTNEY LEE, CAN'T BUST HIM
Jason Terry may end up starting at shooting guard, but Courtney Lee is not giving up the spot without a fight. Lee came through with 21 solid minutes and scored 11 points Saturday, including one of those all-important corner 3-pointers the Celtics count on him making. No matter who ends up coming off the bench with Jeff Green to lead the second unit, the Celtics should have a guard capable of getting into the scorebook quickly.
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