Even the predominantly predictable New York Knicks aren't incapable of surprising us.
Watching the Knicks, you typically know what it's in store: poor defense, excessive complaining and protracted sluggishness.
In more ways than one, that actually makes them unpredictable. They weren't supposed to be this bad; they've been shockingly terrible all season.
Their next surprise could include dealing Tyson Chandler, the defensive linchpin adored by fans for embracing what the Knicks usually don't—defense.
Under ideal circumstances, Chandler wouldn't be dealt. Ideally, the Knicks would also be contending, which they aren't.
Compelled to expedite a rebuild or rescue themselves from the NBA's infernal regions, they could trade Chandler, one of their only assets worth more than slabs of pocket lint.
Something Needs To Be Done
Standing pat isn't an option for the Knicks.
Well, if they're interested in bearing witness to an expensive disaster for the rest of this season, then it's an option. But it shouldn't be.
New York's roster, borne out of haphazard spending, slapdash trading and gross misuse of draft picks—in that the front office tends not to keep them—is an unfathomable failure. Not even those who strongly lamented the losses of Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak, the addition of Andrea Bargnani and return of J.R. Smith saw this coming.
The Knicks had Carmelo Anthony. They spent money. They won 54 games last season. Even in a stronger, more top-heavy Eastern Conference—funny, right?—they would be good. Not great. Good.
"Awful mixed with disgusting" has been the operative phrase instead.
More than halfway through 2013-14, the Knicks record (15-27) is more comparable to the tanking Boston Celtics (15-29) and Philadelphia 76ers (14-28) than it is to the Indiana Pacers (33-8) or even the Brooklyn Nets (18-22). They also rank 20th and 27th in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively.
Nothing and no one has been able to remedy this mess.
Assurances came from owner James Dolan that there would be no trades or coaching changes, per ESPN's Marc Stein, a promise unable to create stability and inspire a turnaround. And since it's become increasingly unlikely there's a second superstar or savior in New York's midst, something must be done.
A trade must be struck.
No Other Options
Movable assets aren't luxuries the Knicks have.
Raymond Felton, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Smith are nigh untradeable at this point. Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. still have some value, but they're also on rookie deals, making it unlikely they net anyone of substantial worth in return.
There are only Chandler and Anthony. But good luck convincing Dolan to move Anthony.
On some level, orchestrating Anthony's departure must be considered. It's better to deconstruct rosters willingly than suddenly and involuntarily, which is what could happen this summer.
Actually moving Anthony is unrealistic, only because the Knicks just won't entertain it. That leaves Chandler, who, even at 31 years old, is reportedly drawing interest.
Stein says the Knicks have fielded numerous calls regarding Chandler's availability, all of which they turned away. But that was then, not even two weeks ago, an eternity in New York time.
The Knicks are now floundering and fading at an alarming rate. Chandler is one of their only—lone?—trade assets who can either land them an impact player in return, be paired with an unsavory contract, nab a valuable draft pick or some combination of those three.
Not long ago, Chandler was considered untouchable. Within the confines of Madison Square Garden, he may still be considered off limits.
Desperate times, however, call for action. The Knicks are at that point.
It's panic button time.
Panicking could come in the form of blowing this roster up. But if it's one thing we all know about the Knicks, it's that they're too stubborn to give up on this season when a dreadful Eastern Conference continues to give them hope.
Sledge-hammering down on that panic button could also include a move no one expected in attempt to salvage what's left of this devolving core. So I give you Chandler (again).
Relations between him and head coach Mike Woodson appear to be deteriorating, according to the New York Daily News' Frank Isola. Chandler expressed frustrations about the Knicks' tendency to switch on everything following their Martin Luther King, Jr. Day loss to Brooklyn, which led to a confrontation with his head coach.
"I don’t want to switch," Chandler said at the time, per Isola. "I personally don’t like it. You come with a defensive plan and then every guy kind of mans up and takes his responsibility. I think switching should always be your last resort. That’s me, personally."
Never mind the fact that Chandler is so very, very (very) right, trouble is afoot. Both Woodson and Chandler stated they were "good," but a strong, potentially irreparable, difference of opinion clearly exists.
Rarely does ownership side with a coach 12 games under .500 over a one-time All-Star, Olympiad and former Defensive Player of the Year, but this is different.
Chandler can get the Knicks someone worthwhile. Who exactly? Maybe a real floor general; maybe a legitimate No. 2 option. We don't know. All that really matters is the Knicks can approach prospective teams with an offer for a valuable player and not be laughed at if their proposal is headlined by Chandler.
What's that? His defense, you say? Right, his value there makes him untouchable, like we said before.
Only it doesn't.
Chandler's current defensive rating (106) is the second highest of his career, and it's a full two points higher than last year (104). According to NBA.com (subscription required), the Knicks are also allowing six points per 100 possessions more with him on the floor, making their already porous and putrid defense even worse.
Blaming Woodson's switch-heavy schemes on individual failures only gets us so far. Few people despise his system more than myself, but it's the same garbage the Knicks ran last year when Chandler was only a slight minus on the defensive end.
Facing starters and curbed minutes and all that stuff comes into play. But Chandler is also an injury-prone big who's not having the same impact he's supposed to. Calls for his head are unwarranted, but he isn't beyond reproach. Or trade, for that matter.
"I'm not gonna get down because I still feel like you gotta come in every day and try to get better," Chandler said after New York's loss to Philly, per the Knicks' Twitter account.
Attempting to save, to better the Knicks may demand they do the unthinkable and trade a once-untouchable Chandler, the lone movable asset capable of fusing hope into New York's unmitigated eyesore.