GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Carmelo Anthony was on painkillers because of back spasms when the Knicks played the Mavericks last month, but he wasn't too sedated to recognize that Tyson Chandler had a monster game.
"I was drugged up that day," Anthony said Monday. "Everything was kind of blurry to me. But I watched it. I saw it, how impactful he was during that game, how excited he was to play against us."
The 5-21 Knicks miss that emotion and intensity, and can expect Chandler to be just as hyped when he makes his return to the Garden Tuesday night.
After he was traded in June, Chandler became one of the symbols of what went wrong with the Knicks last season. He couldn't believe how he was portrayed and exacted some revenge in the Nov. 26 meeting, finishing with 17 points and 25 rebounds in a 109-102 overtime victory over the Knicks.
His former teammates think the fans should cheer him Tuesday night, and Anthony dismissed the idea that the Knicks' struggles were Chandler's fault.
"That's the state of our game, man," he said. "That's what we have to deal with as players. If something ain't going right, they find somebody to pin it on. In Tyson's situation, they said it was him. That's the nature of our game. There's always going to be somebody that they point the finger at. In that situation, it was him during that time."
Chandler was the Defensive Player of the Year his first season with the Knicks and made his first All-Star team in his second season, helping them to 54 wins and the Atlantic Division title. Last season, he broke his leg in the fourth game and the Knicks went into a tailspin.
After he returned, he wasn't the same, and the Knicks never recovered from their bad start. Chandler became critical of Mike Woodson's defensive philosophies and was sent to Dallas along with Raymond Felton in an eight-player trade that Phil Jackson said he made "to change some of the chemistry."
But change has been much better for Chandler than the Knicks. Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert, the two biggest names the Knicks got back in the deal with Dallas, have been inconsistent. The Knicks are off to their worst start in club history and have three fewer wins than at this point last season.
Chandler is averaging 10.7 points and 11.5 rebounds for the 17-8 Mavericks. His 12 double-doubles are five more than the Knicks have collectively.
"I hope they cheer for him," Anthony said. "He was a guy who came in and won Defensive Player of the Year here. He was a big part to what we were trying to create here and what we did at one point in time. I don't think they need to boo him or anything. The only reason you boo him is because he's on another team. I don't see anything he did wrong."
Said Amar'e Stoudemire: "Tyson gave us some good years, he truly did. He was a true pro, he worked. His defensive methods were great. I think the crowd will give him a cheer because once a Knick, you're always a Knick. He does play for Dallas, and they might not cheer him for all too long."
Notes & quotes: The Knicks had a skeleton crew atpractice. Anthony and Stoudemire had recovery days. Pablo Prigioni (sore right ankle), Shane Larkin (illness), J.R. Smith (partial tear, left plantar fascia), Iman Shumpert (dislocated left shoulder) and Andrea Bargnani (strained right calf) also didn't practice. The Knicks are listing Smith as questionable for the Dallas game and expect Prigioni and Larkin to play. Shumpert and Bargnani are out.