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The New York Knicks Need Tyson Chandler to Stop Talking and Start Leading

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The New York Knicks Need Tyson Chandler to Stop Talking and Start Leading
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New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) and Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson battle for a rebound at …

COMMENTARY | Anchoring the middle of a team that seems desperate for some sound guidance, Tyson Chandler is considered one of the primary leaders on the New York Knicks.

For the most part, he's done a lot to earn that reputation during his three seasons in New York.

His toughness was a key part of the Dallas Mavericks' 2011 NBA title and was responsible for Chandler's 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Award he won as a Knick.

But true leaders lead by example. They don't -- when they're part of a bigger problem themselves -- publicly call out their head coaches the way Chandler has done recently with head coach Mike Woodson.

Undermining Woodson

In fairness, the premise of Chandler's words wasn't entirely wrong when he implied that his former teammate, Brooklyn Nets head coach, Jason Kidd, out-coached Woodson during the Knicks' embarrassing 23-point home loss to the Nets on January 20.

"Switching should be a last resort and, no, I don't think we're built to switch everything," Chandler said of Woodson's defensive philosophy. He went on to say, "They out-schemed us. They played to our defense as far as their offensive scheme, knowing our rotations, putting us in vulnerable situations.''

On that particular day, Chandler was right. New York does switch far too much defensively sometimes, and often pays a hefty price for it.

The Wrong Approach

But in the grander picture, the Knicks didn't need another unnecessary distraction, nor did Woodson, who was forced to answer questions about Chandler's unbridled criticisms to the media.

In sharp contrast, when Woodson was forced to bench Chandler's teammate, J.R. Smith, for what was later reported as Smith complaining over playing time in New York's overtime win over Phoenix on January 13, he very appropriately chose not to air the Knicks' dirty laundry (and no, that's not a reference to New York's unlucky orange jerseys this season).

"I'm not going to air that out," Woodson rightfully said at the time. "Again, it's in-house. Everybody knows what's going on in-house and that's all that matters."

Unfortunately, Chandler couldn't remain professional enough to afford his head coach the same courtesy.

A 13-year veteran, playing long enough in the league's biggest media market to know better, Chandler knew exactly what he was doing.

Even though Chandler and Woodson met earlier this week to clear the air, the stench of what Chandler did to Woodson's coaching authority lingered.

Despite backing Woodson in the past, an established, recent pattern of Chandler questioning Woodson without taking his own views behind closed doors began to emerge. It's possible that Chandler's goal was to plant some seeds for Woodson's dismissal, since in addition to his comments after the loss to Brooklyn, he also made it a point to tell the media that the Knicks "didn't make adjustments" after New York's 28-point loss in Indiana on January 16.

The Knicks' Other Leader Deserves to Say Much More Than Chandler

Interestingly, Chandler wasn't alone in questioning Woodson's strategies against the Nets.

Star forward Carmelo Anthony praised Kidd's Nets, saying, "They played to the mismatches. That's something that Jason does well, even when he was here. That was his big thing, play to the mismatch."

But before that, Anthony also wouldn't acknowledge that the Knicks were "out-schemed," as Chandler stated. And as New York's lone All-Star this season, who leads the Knicks in both scoring and rebounding, Anthony deserves a much greater right than Chandler to speak up.

In contrast, New York has often performed worse this season when Chandler has played compared to when he hasn't -- which is not exactly the ideal time for a player to gripe about his coach's game plans.

Not counting the very brief minutes after he left early (due to a broken leg and a respiratory illness) -- in a loss to Charlotte, on November 5, and during a win in Dallas exactly two months later -- the Knicks are just 4-12 (.333) with Chandler, and a considerably more respectable 11-15 (.423) without him this season.

They have also been outscored by 6.6 points more when Chandler is on the floor (-9.1 points per 48 minutes) than when he's off the court (-2.5 points per 48 minutes).

As for whether or not Chandler thinks Woodson can match coaching wits with Kidd, back on December 5, New York won in Brooklyn by 30 points, without whom playing in that game?

You guessed it. Chandler, the same "defensive force" who got abused by Indiana center Roy Hibbert as New York exited the playoffs last spring.

Further, the Knicks' past 10 games show that instead of focusing so much on taking Woodson to task, perhaps Chandler should look more within himself for answers to New York's troubles.

During the first five games of that stretch, the Knicks' offense without Chandler averaged three more points (96.6) than over the last five games (93.3) of that period with Chandler.

And look what happened to New York's defense, something that is expected to be Chandler's forte (though, certainly Chandler's not the only one at fault on that front).

After Chandler left the Dallas game early, the Knicks reeled off a season-high five straight victories (including a win over the defending champion Miami Heat), while allowing no more than 96 points and giving up and an average of just 89 points per game.

However, once its supposed "defensive stopper" and "leader" returned to the lineup, New York suddenly lost five-straight games while allowing as much as 117 points, no lower than 103, and an average of 109.4 points -- staggeringly, over 20 points more per game with Chandler than without him, compared to the Knicks' previous five games.

The two five-game stretches also included a common opponent: the last-place Philadelphia 76ers, who New York beat on the road on January 11 while allowing just 92 points without Chandler, and who the Knicks were humbled by at home 11 days later while allowing 110 points with Chandler.

During the five-game losing streak, New York's starting center also stood idly by while the likes of Charlotte's Al Jefferson torched the Knicks for a season-high 35 points on 14-of-20 shooting, and Andray Blatche came off the bench to outplay Chandler with 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Nets.

Taking Responsibility and Moving Forward

Those results speak for themselves. So, maybe, just maybe, the issue didn't lie solely in Woodson's defensive strategies or his sometimes mismanaged lineups, with the defensive limitations of Chandler's teammates, such as Andrea Bargnani or Tim Hardaway, Jr., just to name a couple of several Knicks who struggle in that area the most.

Maybe that answer can be found in the player who's been too busy pointing a finger at his head coach, while failing to realize the old adage that when you do that to someone else, three fingers tend to point back at yourself.

What helped make New York a division title winner for the first time in 19 years last season was the right kind of veteran leadership, even from players like Kenyon Martin or Rasheed Wallace -- guys who have never been afraid to speak their minds, but who did so in the right ways.

Teammates who didn't publicly call out their head coach when things went bad, but vocal leaders who fought through adversity and who kept certain things inside the locker room until any outwardly perceived chemistry problems were rectified.

But Wallace is long gone and Martin is currently hurt, and not a starter with the cache that Chandler's reputation still carries.

If the Knicks are to salvage a rough season that's been slipping away with each pressurized loss, they need a leader like those two. They need the leader that Tyson Chandler used to be for the New York Knicks.

Jonathan Wagner is a Yahoo Sports contributor covering the New York Knicks, New York Giants and New York Mets. He also covers the Knicks as a beat writer for New York Sports Day and discusses a variety of sports topics as a co-host on the New York Sports Geeks online radio show. Follow him on Twitter, @JonathanJWagner.

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