Fortunately for the club, the 2013 NBA All-Star broke his silence Sunday night and revealed that he is eyeing a return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday night when the club travels to Miami to battle LeBron James and the Heat.
“That’s the goal,” Chandler said when asked whether he planned on practicing tomorrow with the team. And when asked whether he was aiming to play on Tuesday, Chandler said that he was.
“That’s what I’m shooting for, barring any setbacks.”
Chandler revealed that his neck had been ailing for quite some time and the pain consistently progressed. However, Chandler specifically pointed to the Knicks 117-94 loss at the Denver Nuggets back on March 13 as the day he took a shot to the neck and the pain became too great.
“It started a while before I got hit, but I felt like it was something I felt like I could deal with and play with but then when I got hit in the Denver game, it kinda brought everything to the surface and I couldn’t even play if I wanted to, from that point,” he said.
Two weeks later, after the pain ceased to subside, on March 27, Chandler saw a neck specialist after the Knicks returned from a trip to Boston, where the team handily defeated the Celtics without him, 100-85.
“I went and met with a specialist because I was having a lot of pain that kinda wasn’t going away,” he said “They gave the training staff some therapy things for me to do and I’m thankful I didn’t have to get the injection. It’s come along slowly, but I’m feeling better.”
The media at MSG was on alert when Chandler was spotted warming up before the Knicks took on the Celtics. He moved fluidly and did not seem to be favoring his neck at all.
“Today is the first time I was really able to lift my arms above my shoulders without kinda feeling any pinch or spasm,” he said after completing the session. “As long as tomorrow, I don’t have that same type of pain coming back, that’s a good thing.”
Fortunately for him, the Knicks—thanks in large part to J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin—are on a season-high seven game win streak, so Chandler has felt less pressure to rush his return.
“They’ve done an excellent job of not putting the pressure on me and allowing me to kinda rest to get back because of the way they’ve been playing of late with the seven game winning streak,” Chandler said. “It kinda helps things when I’m not back here in agony watching them.”
Still, the starting center for the Knicks is looking forward to his return.
“I just like to be on the court and I want to be out there for my teammates so if I can play, I’m gonna play,” he said. “But I know 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, especially going into the playoffs.”
As of Monday, the Knicks will have just 10 games remaining as the franchise seeks to win its first Atlantic Division title since 1994.
Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops whose columns appear here on Tuesdays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton