Wilson Chandler is barely audible in a Knicks dressing room dominated by the marquee, Amar'e Stoudemire, the emotional Ronny Turiaf and the fiery Raymond Felton. He'll rarely make eye contact with an opponent, let alone jaw with one during a game. But as his game continues to rise, so, apparently is the curtain on his personality.
While hitting a corner three with his heels just above the toes of the shouting players sitting on the Pacers' bench in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win shows Chandler's growing confidence, the glare he gave Indiana's bench as he ran back on defense was a rarely seen display of swagger.
And after scoring a season-high 31 points in Tuesday's stunning win over the Spurs, the quiet Chandler, who is averaging 17.9 points per game this season, has his game speaking for him. And others are, too.
Mike D'Antoni called the performance "outstanding" while Stoudemire went with "phenomenal." You'll never get such accolades out of the soft-spoken Chandler, but really, you don't need to. Confidence is oozing out of the 23-year-old, who at this point has become Isiah Thomas' one lasting positive contribution to the franchise.
And while Thomas deserves credit for this late first-round find in the 2007 draft, Chandler is quick to deflect his success to D'Antoni and the coaching staff and teammates.
"They talk to me every day," he said. "I have to attribute a lot of it to them."
But no one forces Chandler to spend extra time at the gym working on his shooting form, touch and range. He was told that in this system he will get a lot of shots off from the corner because his defender will be forced to help down on Stoudemire. So Chandler practices that corner three to the point where it has become almost automatic. Shawne Williams, who finds himself in the opposite corner when he's on the floor with Chandler, does the same thing. "We get in the gym and we get a lot of reps up," Chandler said. "You've got to be able to knock them down when Amar'e gets double-teamed like that."
You can understand why D'Antoni winces whenever someone brings up trade rumors involving Carmelo Anthony. As much as the Knicks would love to add Anthony to their mix, as each game passes, the idea of including Chandler in a trade with the Nuggets - who, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, are quite fond of him - is met with stronger resistance.
There remains another caveat: Chandler will be a restricted free agent this summer and will need a contract, too. It will take some creative bookkeeping, but the plan is to carve out enough room to have the ability to sign Anthony and also re-sign Chandler.