Tyson Chandler was back on the court last night, running, cutting and even attempting a hook shot or two.
Chandler, who has been out for nearly three weeks with a bulging disc in his neck, worked out with the training staff before the Knicks' 108-89 victory over the Celtics. The session went well enough that Chandler later said he hopes to be back in the lineup Tuesday night when the Knicks play the Heat in Miami.
"That's the goal," said Chandler, who missed his 10th straight game Sunday night. "That's what I'm shooting for, barring any setbacks."
The team plans to run Chandler through some drills Monday even though the Knicks aren't practicing.
The goal of playing tomorrow night should be considered optimistic, given that Chandler tried to practice last Monday and did not take the court again until Sunday. After the session, he said he nearly took an epidural injection but instead met with a specialist who recommended other therapies to help alleviate the pain.
He said Sunday marked the first time he has been able to lift his arms above his shoulders without feeling any kind of pinch or spasm.
"I felt pretty good out there," Chandler said. "I was a little stiff, which is expected. I just got to be able to move."
Chandler's last game was a loss at Denver on March 13, after which an MRI revealed the disc problem. Chandler said before last night's game that he had been feeling some pain in his neck even before the Denver game and that a hit from Kenneth Faried took it to an "excruciating level."
The Knicks are 8-2 without Chandler and have won eight straight, the league's longest active winning streak after Miami's streak ended at 27 and Denver's at 15 this past week. Still, there's little doubt that they would benefit from the return of Chandler, who was the league's defensive player of the year last season.
"Tyson is a big piece of what we do," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.
But Woodson definitely is inclined to err on the side of caution rather than rushing Chandler back to make some sort of statement against the Heat.
"We patiently got to wait on Tyson until he's ready to play and then get him back in the mix," Woodson said. "I just think we've got to be cautious with what he's going through."
Though Chandler said he felt good after the workout, there is no doubt that he moved gingerly at times. At one point after a hook shot, he reached and touched his neck.
Said Chandler: "I just like to be on the court. I want to be out there for my teammates. So if I can play, I'm going to play. But I also have to do what's best for my teammates, and being 100 percent and being able to be active is what's best for my teammates at this point.
"They've done an excellent job of not putting the pressure on me and letting me rest and get back because of the way they've been playing of late. A seven-game winning streak kind of helps things."
An eight-game winning streak helps even more.