Tyson Chandler has an itch that he can’t scratch. That itch? Roy Hibbert. (Just look away now, Knicks fans.) Going into the playoffs last season, the Knicks had realistic championship aspirations for the first time in over a decade. Not that Hibbert cared. In the second round against the Knicks, the Pacers’ big dominated the series, shooting 78 percent from the floor, assertively turning away oncoming slashers on defense, and putting up a monstrous 21 point, 12 rebound, and 5 block performance to close out the series.
Hibbert went head-to-head against Chandler, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year and 2013 All-Star—the anchor of Gotham’s defense—and washed him. With that disappointing second-round exit and in particular, Hibbert’s accomplished array of post moves in mind, Chandler rededicated himself this offseason. Despite being a part of the most expensive frontcourt in NBA history, there are still questions looming over the team and Chandler’s ability to hold it all together. Speaking to Complex after a team practice, Chandler addressed concerns about his own game, talked up the potential of Iman Shumpert, and made it clear that the Knicks are ready to keep up with the LeBrons in the Eastern Conference.
Interview by Justin Block (@JBlock49).
In a training video for Muscle Milk, you said that, "There is no offseason for me because there's always somebody else working…I refuse to let them outwork me." Who were you thinking of in particular when you said that?
I think about some of the top centers and big men across the league, and I won’t name anybody specific, but I just have visions in my head that help motivate me.
You said a few days ago that Roy Hibbert kicked your butt in the playoffs. What did he specifically do in the post that got to you, and what changes have you made this offseason to counter the elite post moves of a big like Hibbert?
I felt like I wasn’t—I was coming off injuries in the playoffs. I felt like I wasn’t strong enough, as strong as I normally was. I made sure to address those problems in the offseason by getting stronger, and trying to prevent certain injuries.
Was that the first time in your career that you had to be brutality honest with yourself so you could improve in the offseason?
I pride myself on guarding anybody, regardless of whether it’s one or two great games, I don’t want anybody to have any on me. I took that personally.
Honestly I felt like that was the only time in my career where I felt like in a series, a big has gotten the best of me. I felt like he had an incredible series, and he went on to have another incredible series [against the Heat]. He was very hot in the playoffs. I pride myself on guarding anybody, regardless of whether it’s one or two great games, I don’t want anybody to have any on me. I took that personally.
Bruce Finch, your strength and conditioning coach said this about you: "His competitive nature and the gossip and doubts of others really drive him." Do you pay attention to the blogs and the whispers? There's a feeling that you're reaching a stage in your career where you can no longer shoulder the Knicks' defensive burden, despite the 2013 All-Star selection and 2012 Defensive Player of the Year award.
No, I honestly don’t dig for anything. When you’re a player of my stature, things just come back to you regardless. I use this as motivation. To me, it’s just bigger expectations for me that people have. That’s a compliment. The fact that I was first team All-Defense, and like you said, Defense Player of the Year the previous year and an All-Star this year, it’s a compliment that people are saying that, and it’s being said that I had a great season. Having such a great season—regular season I’m saying—it’s just added motivation.
Looking at the Knicks' preseason roster, I noticed that you guys are carrying 10 forwards. Do you think that's a problem, considering that Carmelo Anthony's most effective position last season was power forward?
I think it’s better for Melo to rest and play his natural position at the 3. I think a lot of times, especially in the playoffs, you run into true power fowards and big bodies down there, that to me it put too much of a burden on him. Having to fight in the low-post defensively, fight and scrapping for rebounds. That’s a lot of energy when you ask a guy to carry your team offensively as well. I think it’ll just help having some bigger bodies out there.