Amar'e Stoudemire is credited for the Knicks turnaround, but Wilson Chandler is the forgotten man
BY Frank Isola
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Thursday, January 6th 2011, 4:00 AM
There is a moment during every Knicks home game when the Madison Square Garden public address announcer urges fans to vote Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari to the All-Star Game.
Wilson Chandler, arguably the team's second-best player, isn't mentioned. In fact, Pauly D of "Jersey Shore" fame got more face time on the Garden's JumboTron on Tuesday than Chandler.
"That stuff doesn't bother me," Chandler says. "If I'm not on the All-Star ballot, that's okay."
So Chandler isn't big on marketing. But what about money? Surely, he must be upset that the Knicks elected not to sign him to a contract extension two months ago. Instead of long-term security, Chandler now faces the uncertainty of possible NBA lockout this summer.
"It was a business decision," Chandler says. "I understand why they did that. It doesn't bother me."
Without saying much, Chandler says a lot. He doesn't complain - at least publicly - brag or dabble in the politics of the locker room. The only things loud about Chandler are the tattoos covering his body and his ever-improving game.
The Knicks are 20-14, and Chandler has been as responsible as anyone for the winning record. The 6-foot-8 forward is the team's most versatile player, and only Amar'e Stoudemire is more skilled. Chandler is off to the best start of his four-year career, averaging 17.9 points and shooting 49%.
Chandler was the best player on the floor during Tuesday's impressive 128-115 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. He scored 31 points on 13-for-19 shooting, adding nine rebounds and four assists as Gallinari's replacement at small forward.
In typical fashion, Chandler deflected praise from himself, saying that he got open shots because the Spurs were "focused on Amar'e" and that Felton "did a nice job of getting me the ball in spots I can score."
He is shy almost to a fault but still an ideal teammate because he'll play anywhere and guard anyone without protest.
"I know people think I don't talk but once you get to know me you'll find out that isn't the case," Chandler said. "I talk."
Chandler's breakout season comes at an ideal time for the Knicks, who remain in the hunt for Denver's Carmelo Anthony. His value is at an all-time high which makes him an important trading chip. It also could result in a huge pay day down the line for Chandler, a restricted free agent.
One executive familiar with the Knicks' talks with Denver maintains that team president Donnie Walsh isn't in a rush to make a deal because the team is playing so well.
"After all these years they finally have some momentum and their fans are excited," he said. "Do you want to mess with that?"
If it means acquiring a player of Carmelo's caliber, the Knicks would have to get involved. But if they miss out on Anthony, retaining Chandler is a pretty good consolation prize.
Chandler, of course, is one of two remaining players from the Isiah Thomas era. That may be the reason he's not being pushed for the All-Star Game. When Thomas took over in New York, he wasted no time purging the roster of players acquired by Scott Layden.
Walsh is different. He doesn't feel threatened that Chandler isn't one of his "guys" so to speak. The same is true of the other Isiah holdover, Eddy Curry. Walsh won't trade Chandler just for the sake of trading him.
If Walsh is convinced that Chandler is the long-term answer for the Knicks he'll try to re-sign him. For now, Chandler is valuable right where he is.