Energetic version of Tyson Chandler returns in Knicks' opening two games

Tyson Chandler of the Knicks reacts after his

Tyson Chandler of the Knicks reacts after his first-quarter dunk against the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden. (Oct. 30, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Tyson Chandler has been springing off the floor, playing with a bounce, energy and defensive passion that weren't always there last season.

Two games into this season, Chandler has been the player the Knicks missed against the Pacers in the playoffs.

"I feel a lot better than I did at the end of the season," Chandler said. "It's night and day."

That might be the most encouraging thing thus far for the 1-1 Knicks.

It's very early, but Carmelo Anthony is not shooting a high percentage (15-for-40, .375), and he missed the game-winning shot in Thursday night's 82-81 loss in Chicago. With a total of 15 points in two games, Andrea Bargnani hasn't been the secondary scorer the Knicks hoped he'd be. Iman Shumpert's defense hasn't been as solid as usual, and Amar'e Stoudemire was a major defensive liability against Chicago.

The Knicks, who host the Timberwolves Sunday night, have felt Chandler's impact on both ends of the floor.

He sparked Wednesday's opening-night win over Milwaukee with six of his 10 points down the stretch and also had five blocks. Against the Bulls, Chandler had 19 rebounds -- eight offensive -- blocked four shots and altered numerous others.

"Phenomenal," Anthony said. "The way he's playing on the defensive end has given everybody the confidence to go out there and feed off that emotion, feed off his energy."

But Chandler couldn't get up high enough to affect Derrick Rose's game-winning runner and missed a critical free throw with 10.8 seconds remaining.

"I feel good physically," Chandler said. "I feel a lot stronger, and an explosiveness to really attack the offensive glass, give my team second-chance opportunities as well as to control the paint defensively."

Chandler hasn't faced anyone as big or strong as Indiana center Roy Hibbert yet, but he's showing signs of returning to the force he was when he energized the Knicks and was the 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

For the Knicks to even come close to their lofty goal of winning a championship, they'll need Chandler to be the post presence he wasn't against Indiana in the conference semifinals.

Chandler has admitted he had a terrible postseason.

Slowed by neck issues and weakened by strep throat, he disappeared against Indiana, averaging 6.2 points and 6.0 rebounds after his first All-Star appearance. In the series-ending Game 6 loss, Chandler fouled out with two points, six rebounds and no blocks.

That game and series weighed on Chandler throughout the offseason. He dedicated himself to weightlifting, getting stronger and making sure he would be there for the Knicks when they need him. Chandler said he wasn't last season and vowed that won't happen again.

"I'm going to give my team everything I got regardless, whatever it is," Chandler said. "Whether I'm 70 percent, 90, a hundred, whatever. I did last year. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. But this year I feel a lot better, and I'll continue to give everything I got night in and night out."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

NBA video

advertisement | advertise on newsday