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Tyson Chandler named Defensive Player of the Year

Tyson Chandler #6 of the New York Knicks

Tyson Chandler #6 of the New York Knicks celebrates against the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Knicks defeated the Nets 99-92. (Feb. 4, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Tyson Chandler made sure the "Dee-fense" chants in the Garden stopped falling on deaf ears and was rewarded for it Wednesday.

Chandler was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first Knick to win the award since its inception in 1983.

"It's been a career-long dream," Chandler said. "I've only wanted to be considered one of the top defensive players in the league. To be considered the best defensive player in the league this year is just the ultimate for me."

Chandler narrowly beat out Oklahoma City Thunder big man and NBA shot-blocking leader Serge Ibaka.

Chandler received 311 points, including 45 first-place votes from a panel of 121 media members. Ibaka (3.65 blocks a game) finished with 41 first-place votes and 294 points. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, the Defensive Player of the Year the previous three years, was third.

Chandler, who battled the flu in Games 1 and 2 of the Knicks playoff series with the Heat, said he "should be close to 100 percent" tonight for Game 3.

During his acceptance speech, Chandler joked that he wanted to thank his teammates for their "poor defense" because it allowed him to cover for them. However, Chandler did help to bring a defensive mentality back to the Knicks.

They finished the regular season 11th in the NBA in points allowed (94.7) and 10th in field-goal defense (44.2 percent). In 2010-11, the Knicks were 27th in points permitted (105.7) and 26th in opponents' shooting (47.2 percent).

Chandler, who was a main component in the Mavericks winning the NBA title last year, averaged 6.5 defensive rebounds and 1.44 blocks. The Knicks allowed an average of 108.3 points in the four games he missed.

"I'm not in the top in blocks and I'm not in the top in steals and yet still I win the award simply because I'm able to get a lot out of my teammates and I'm able to play a team game," Chandler said.

"Throughout my career I was always known as a good defender. I think when you win a championship people realize there is something behind this. I really feel like that's the reason I won the award this year. I was able to go from that situation and come to this team. I think that's a lot of why I'm getting the recognition is I've kind of been able to change the culture along with my teammates and coaching staff."

Chandler said his motivation comes from legendary Celtic and all-time defender Bill Russell. Chandler also credited former Knick Bill Cartwright, his first coach in Chicago, and Charles Oakley, his teammate with the Bulls. Chandler said Oakley taught him about being a professional and imposing your will on a game defensively.

The Knicks acquired Chandler from the Mavericks in a three-team sign-and-trade that included Washington. To clear space for Chandler, the Knicks waived Chauncey Billups through the amnesty clause.

"When you talk about putting together a championship team it starts in the middle," interim coach Mike Woodson said. "He's the perfect fit in terms of what I look for in a defensive center. I'm just hoping that I'm around long enough to continue to coach him."


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