Status of Chandler (flu-like symptoms) unclear for Game 1

Tyson Chandler #6 of the New York Knicks Tyson Chandler #6 of the New York Knicks looks on against the Toronto Raptors. (March 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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MIAMI -- Tyson Chandler has been the Knicks' rock in the middle this season, anchoring their much-improved defense. But on the eve of their playoff opener against the Heat, Chandler was in a weakened condition, back at the hotel resting and being pumped with fluids.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said there's a "strong possibility" Chandler will not play in Game 1 Saturday because of flu-like symptoms. If he does, he might be limited.

Suddenly, the path to the basket for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could be a little more open.

Woodson said Chandler's symptoms were "fever, not eating, chills." He was quarantined from the rest of the Knicks; he didn't attend their team dinner Friday night and wore a surgical mask on the plane ride from Charlotte so he wouldn't spread germs.

"He's been pretty sick the last few days," Amar'e Stoudemire said. "So we can't really talk to him much because he has a mask on over his face, and he's not as mobile right now."

Guard Toney Douglas is questionable for Game 1 with the flu.

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Chandler, who helped the Mavericks win the NBA title last year by beating the Heat, has been looking forward to the postseason more than anyone. That's one of the reasons Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony expect Chandler to make a miracle recovery and play in Game 1.

"He'll be with me [Saturday],'' Anthony said. "We don't really care about [Friday]. As long as he's with me [Saturday], we'll be fine."

Given that Chandler has spent the past two days in bed and hasn't eaten much, it's hard to imagine him being the interior force he's been for the Knicks this season.

In Chandler's first season as a Knick, the team ranked 10th in opponents' field-goal percentage (44.2) and 11th in points allowed (94.65) after finishing 26th and 27th, respectively, in those categories a year ago.

Woodson said the seventh-seeded Knicks (36-30) will be fine if Chandler isn't available, but he wasn't ready to share which way he will go against No. 2 Miami (46-20).

He could play Jared Jeffries at center. Jeffries, who is returning from a knee injury, was running plays with the starting unit in practice.

Another possibility is to play Stoudemire at center, move Anthony to power forward and start Landry Fields at small forward. The Knicks have had success with Anthony at power forward, and Stoudemire is comfortable playing center.

"The guys that are in uniform, I feel good and confident that they can get the job done," Woodson said.

Chandler's status puts even more emphasis on Anthony and Stoudemire needing to jell to counter James, Wade and Chris Bosh.

Anthony and Stoudemire are trying to end a few Knicks droughts this postseason. They haven't won a playoff game since 2001, haven't won a playoff series since beating the Heat in the 2000 Eastern Conference semifinals and haven't won a championship since 1973. Both of their legacies as Knicks and players could be affected by what they do against James and the defending Eastern Conference champion Heat.

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"My mind-set, my goal is to come in and win the series," Anthony said. "It's a big series for me to get, for us to get."

"The goal now is to win 16 more games," Stoudemire said. "If we can win 16 more games, then the goal is complete."

But in terms of winning that first game, the Knicks don't know if they'll be complete.

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