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Wilson doesn't want, or need, your attention

Boston Celtics' Tony Allen (42) drives in to

Boston Celtics' Tony Allen (42) drives in to shoot in front of New York Knicks' Wilson Chandler in the fourth quarter. (February 23, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

  The first thing I noticed was his shoulders. They were broad and bulging, like an NFL linebacker. I've been doing P90X for a year now and I could do it for 10 more and not have shoulders like that.

I don't know whether to be impressed or insanely jealous. As we talking during Sunday's NBA Summer League opener for the Knicks here in Las Vegas, Wilson Chandler told me he only gained about five pounds so far, but he looked to pack on at least 10-to-15 in his upper body alone. I've stood next to LeBron James, who is a powerful physical specimen and, to be honest, Wilson is starting to look every bit as strong.

Of course the two couldn't be any more different on the inside. With Wilson, the smile is still small and shy and eye contact is rare. But get him talking about a subject he likes -- basketball -- and the petals start to open. We talked about LeBron and "The Decision." Wilson admitted he tuned in.

"Yeah, I watched it," he said. "I didn't know what he was going to do so I was curious."

So are the Heat now a daunting team to face?

"I wouldn't say that," he said. "You can put them at the top, those three guys, I don't see why not. But there's no excuses not to win."

If LeBron had chosen the Knicks, there was a good chance Wilson might have been traded to clear room for a supporting-role guard or another player. Wouldn't make sense to bury a talent like Chandler on the bench behind a guy like James. Instead, Wilson will likely have to defend LeBron when the Knicks face the Heat.

Here's where the shyness goes away.

"I'd rather play him," he said. "It makes me better at the end of the day. If I can go out and guard those guys -- not saying I'm going to stop them -- but to limit them. By playing good defense, I get some confidence in myself."

Confidence seems to be all this kid needs, along with a little more consistency in his jumper. There is a big difference between confidence and bravado, the latter of which Chandler will probably never have. That might be what holds him back from using his exceptional athleticism and power to become an all-star. But he is what he is.

That's why he left Twitter. The timing was curious, because he deleted the account right after his May arrest for marijuana possession. In our story in today's Newsday, Wilson explains that situation and how he wasn't smoking. He said an NBA-mandated drug test the next day proved he was clean.

But he didn't use Twitter, or reach out to the media, to offer that side of the story after the avalanche of criticism and jokes at his expense. I asked him, Why?

"I didn't really want to talk about it," he said. "No matter what I said, people were going to make different stories about it."

With the situation behind him, Wilson assured me he has no interest in going back on Twitter. He said he was tired of reading so many negative comments from fans and followers, who seemed only interested in provoking him.

"Fans and people disliking you, saying stuff about the team, Coach [Mike D'Antoni] and me, just anything," Chandler said. "It was just too much."

He's really not all about the concept of developing a brand or collecting a large following. Chandler just wants to play basketball. After surgeries on his ankle and groin (sports hernia) in the spring, he's expected to be cleared for full contact basketball by the end of the week. He'll have the rest of July and all of August and September to prepare for the season.

Will he even be a Knick by then? Nothing is a given, especially with the Knicks monitoring situations with stars such as Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. But don't expect Wilson to campaign to stay in New York or even worry about it.

"I'm just here and working," Chandler said. "Whether I'm here or not, I have to keep working."

* * *

* - When I heard Timofey Mozgov was here in Vegas, I went over to the Wynn (where the Knicks usually stay) to see if I might spot him. I happened to see an extremely tall kid walking through the casino. He was grabbed by a bouncy young girl who shouted a question, "How tall are you?!"

"Seven-one," came the reply.

As he turned, I noticed he was wearing an orange shirt with the word "KNICKS" across the front.

That has to be him, I thought. (Yes, I have razor sharp reporter's instincts...my story is in today's Newsday).

We chatted for a bit and, though his English was somewhat limited, he did show the ability to carry a conversation. When I mentioned Patrick Ewing, he grinned and immediately said, "Pippen."

Yeah, Tim? Probably not the best reference to make.

The kid is excited, of course. He said his mother was crying on the phone when he called to tell her he signed with the Knicks. I didn't ask, but I imagine Mikhail Prokhorov will have someone else in Russia crying about letting this kid escape to his rival team without informing him first. Unless the kid becomes a total bust.

We won't know for sure until training camp. Mozgov won't play in the summer league here. He will play for Russia in the World Championships in Turkey later this summer.

* - The Knicks summer league team (0-1) play the Lakers today here in Vegas. I'll give my assessment of some of the new kids in an upcoming Fix.

 

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