Tyson Chandler in good health to begin playoffs

Tyson Chandler dunks the ball in the first

Tyson Chandler dunks the ball in the first half of a game against the New Orleans Hornets. (Jan. 13, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Knicks got some big news from their big man Thursday as All-Star center Tyson Chandler declared himself "100 percent" heading into Game 1 of the first-round series against the Celtics Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

"I feel great and ready to go," Chandler said. "I'm looking forward to it. I had some time to rest and I think it can be a positive for our team."

Problems with a bulging disc in his neck caused Chandler to miss the final six games of the regular season and 16 of the team's final 20 contests. Chandler, however, looked pain-free Thursday after going through practice with his teammates.

"This is the best I've felt in a long time," said Chandler, who averaged 10.4 points and 10.7 rebounds in the regular season. "It was a blessing in disguise that I was able to get that time off. I'm going to have fresh legs throughout the playoffs and I'm excited about this long run we're about to endure."

Chandler's health is a big key to the Knicks having a long playoff run.

Chandler, last season's defensive player of the year, is the anchor of the Knicks' interior defense. With coach Mike Woodson saying yesterday that Amar'e Stoudemire is likely to miss the first round of the playoffs, the Knicks will have to depend on Chandler and Kenyon Martin up front.

Two other big men, Marcus Camby and the recently signed Earl Barron, practiced Thursday and should give the Knicks some minutes against the Celtics, who have been going with a bigger lineup.

"We've got to have some bigs," Woodson said. "We have four bigs who can battle along with [Carmelo Anthony], so that makes five. We've got enough bigs. We've got to make sure we can keep them healthy and playing at a high level."

Chandler hurt his neck when he collided with Denver's Corey Brewer on March 13. He missed 10 games after that collision, came back for four and then missed six more. He believes the time off at the end of the season will help his overall physical condition heading into the postseason.

He also believes that despite the myriad injuries to their big men, the Knicks are in a much better position to make something happen in the playoffs than they were last year, when they lost to Miami in the first round. Not only have the Knicks positioned themselves to avoid playing the Heat until the Eastern Conference finals, but the 7-1 Chandler believes they have the right sort of chemistry headed into this playoff run.

Said Chandler, who won a championship with Dallas in 2011: "This is a better team than last year. Last year, we were assembled in a lockout season and we had to get the lay of the land. We had just put all these pieces together. Now we've gone through a year and have the cast we have. This is a confident team."

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