Former Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler answers a question during...

Former Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler answers a question during a news conference announcing his acquisition by the New York Knicks. (Dec. 10, 2011) Credit: AP

Before Tyson Chandler had a chance to make any kind of impression on Knicks fans, they made an impression on him.

The center received a huge ovation when he was introduced -- just before Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire -- to a crowd of 10,500 at the team's open practice at Madison Square Garden Sunday. It was a moving moment, even for a guy who was the defensive mainstay of the NBA champion Mavericks this past spring.

"It was unbelievable," Chandler said after he and his teammates appeared at the renovated Garden for the first time.

"People at the Garden understand basketball. I really have an appreciation for them and I'm just glad they appreciate what I bring to the game," he said. "They really watch the game. They watch a play develop, they watch the pick, they watch the guy cutting, they watch the guy follow through on his shot."

They watch with intensity, whether they are in the top row or the front row. Spike Lee, who has one of the latter seats, recruited Chandler during the Mavericks' visit last season. "I had to let him know, 'Look, Spike, I'm chasing the dream right now, trying to go after a title. Free agency is the furthest thing from my mind,' '' Chandler said. "But he definitely was planting that seed."

No one had to convince Chandler to appreciate the Garden, which he said always was his favorite NBA arena, or the Knicks. "I just think of players that fought hard,'' he said. "I think about the grinding teams that they had in the '90s with the Ewings, the Oakleys, the Masons. Those are the memories I have of the Knicks, the tough basketball."

Charles Oakley was his mentor when he broke in with the Bulls and still is a sounding board. "I actually talked to him yesterday,'' Chandler said. "He just gave me some personal advice on how to handle New York."

Not that Chandler needs much advice in handling any situation. "He's that good of a person," said Mike D'Antoni, who got to know Chandler during U.S. national team trips to Japan and China. "I don't know about his background, but whoever raised him raised him up right. Every situation, he confronts it 100 percent in the right way, and that's pretty cool. It's pretty rare.

"There are going to be nights," D'Antoni said, "when the Garden will be going absolutely crazy because of his energy."

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