The tightrope, the noose and the life line:

Why the Tyson Chandler Signing turned a half court trap into a Slam Dunk!

In the week leading to the start of NBA Training camps, the Knicks’ biggest Eastern Conference competitors (Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls) were maneuvering to build upon the core of their respective teams. The Heat added Shane Battier, a lock down defender, who likely will free Lebron James and Dwayne Wade to focus more on offense. The Celtics added Keyon Dooling and traded Glenn Davis for Brandon Bass, while engaging the New Orleans Hornets (unsuccessfully) for the services of David West. The Bulls search for a starting shooting guard, will lead to Chicago obtaining Richard Hamilton after he is bought out by the Detroit Pistons.

Meanwhile, for Knicks fans the week began, as many likely hoped, with the organization pursuing a conservative plan to protect cap space for a 2012 free agency push at star guard, Chris Paul. The tepid early news of resigning free agent Jared Jeffries to a one year minimum salary scale contract reinforced those hopes. But the end of the week resulted in a surprise series of moves by Knicks management that led to the acquisition of Tyson Chandler. The addition of the Chandler, who recently anchored the defense of the NBA Champion, Dallas Mavericks, awoke the Knicks fan base and organization from a deep and possibly dangerous holding pattern.

In the prior three years, Knicks management has overseen a dynamic, if not always fluid, process of rebuilding the team. A rebuilding process marked by a premium on cap space flexibility,  farming a tradable reserve of inexpensive young talent, and the targeted acquisition of key impact talent in place of over paid middling talent. The pendulum on that blue print swung from the cap space clearing process leading to 2010 free agency toward the forward momentum of acquiring the undervalued leadership and determination of franchise forward, Amar’e Stoudemire. From there the Knicks moved forward and cleared their cupboard in the mid season blockbuster that brought Carmelo Anthony’s scoring prowess to Gotham.

Over the cap with a limited ability to use their mid level exception, bi-annual exception and veteran minimum offers, management appeared to be walking a tightrope in pursuit of Paul. A conundrum that would have slowed the Knicks forward momentum and placed the organization in a restrictive noose while competitors continued to build around their core players. But the holding pattern for Paul was replaced by the more pragmatic move to secure Chandler anchor the Knicks interior defense. 

The matter of Tyson’s acquisition has also freed the Knicks to use a room exception to address their current need at point guard. Moreover, going forward, the move should allow the Knicks to avail themselves of the full compliment of cap exceptions next year (full Mid Level, Bi-annual and veteran’s minimum) to pursue complimentary players needed to bolster the core of a quite literal Knicks Big Three. Mind you that Knicks post season exit, does reinforce the perception that Star talent alone without depth and complimentary pieces do not a contender make.

It is little wonder that in the short span of time following the acquisition of Tyson Chandler the Knicks have engaged in a flurry of moves to strengthen their team. From the signing of Mike Bibby and the courthship of Juan Antonio Barrea to trade discussion to bring the scoring punch of former Knick Jamal Crawford. Freed of the tight rope and nose the Knicks now trade and signing of Tyson Chandler is proving to be the lifeline needed for the organization to carry forward momentum towards Championship contention.