By JIM BAUMBACH, NEWSDAY
Looking for the secret behind Tyson Chandler’s recent rebounding prowess?
The way Knicks coach Mike Woodson sees it, when a 7-footer with Chandler’s wingspan plays with as much energy and hustle as his center has recently, those rebounds are going to pile up. And after a recent stern talk initiated by Woodson, Chandler has been proving his coach’s point twentyfold.
In Monday night’s 99-85 victory over the Detroit Pistons, Chandler grabbed 20 rebounds for the third straight game, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by a Knicks player in more than four decades.
The last one to do it was Willis Reed, who had 20, 24 and 25 rebounds in a three-game stretch in December 1969, according to Elias Sports Bureau. That season ended with a championship and with Reed as the Finals MVP, something Chandler can only dream about. “Whenever you’re mentioned in the same breath or accomplish records he has, it’s a tall task,” Chandler said.
He credited his recent rebounding surge to a frank talk he had with Woodson in the coach’s office last week that “mentally lit a fire under me.”
Woodson said he thought Chandler’s play had been slipping for a few games, and the coach wanted to put a stop to the troublesome sign before it became a trend.
So Woodson called Chandler in and harped on the fact that now that he’s an All-Star for the first time in his 12-year career, he has to play like one all the time.
“I didn’t think he was playing complete basketball,” Woodson said. “He was taking possessions off. He wasn’t moving the pace offensively and he wasn’t getting it done in terms of rebounding the basketball. And you can’t be an All-Star in this league and not play like it.”
As hard as it was for Chandler to hear that from his coach, he said he didn’t take offense. Instead, he said he channeled his emotions on the court — especially when chasing down those missed shots.
“The last thing you want is for people to start questioning you,” Chandler said. “And I agreed … Sometimes you need that. You need a little push.”
Chandler also scored eight points in the Knicks’ fifth straight win, and Woodson believes it’s no coincidence that his recent string of rebounds has coincided with another Knicks winning streak.
Woodson said his veteran team feeds off the energetic play of its emotional leader. “He’s making himself available,” he said. “He’s moving, offensively and defensively. He’s just active. That’s how he’s got to play. That helps us tremendously in terms of how we want to play.”
After Chandler’s 20th rebound, off a missed free throw midway through the fourth quarter, many of his teammates took notice. As time out was called, they approached and congratulated him as he returned to the Knicks’ bench, drawing a smile from Chandler.
“That’s just effort and commitment and wanting to get every rebound that comes off the rim,” Woodson said. “He’s been great. And he needs to continue that pace because that helps us tremendously.” ——
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