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Tyson Chandler Is Coming to the Knicks

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks warms up against the Miami Heat in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

As of 2 p.m., NBA teams can sign free agents to contracts. The Knicks, as was first rumored yesterday, will sign center Tyson Chandler to a contract that will pay him about $58 million over four years. To make room for Chandler, New York will have to shed Chauncey Billups's $14 million contract using the amnesty clause, trade Ronny Turiaf somewhere for a second-round pick or some arcane trade exception (in essence, nothing), and possibly make some other small move. So, where does this put the Knicks?

Chandler's value to the Knicks' front-court is plain as day. Last year's team, while brilliant offensively, lacked the interior defense and rebounding to stifle even mediocre opposition. (Recall Tyler Hansbrough's serial career games against the Knicks, for instance. I could go on.) Chandler is one of the league's premier rebounders and interior defenders. His presence will allow Amar'e Stoudemire to slide permanently into the power forward position and obviate our collective hand-wringing over guys like Jerome Jordan (though it'd still be nice if he comes to training camp). Simply put, Chandler fits perfectly.

There are downsides. To begin with, Chandler is going to make quite a bit of money, effectively taking the Knicks out of the running for any big-ticket free agents this summer. Chandler also brings a pretty extensive history of injuries, though he managed to stay healthy during the Mavericks' championship run last season. Finally, Chandler is a limited offensive player and has thrived mainly in the presence of a top-notch point guard. With Billups out the door, the Knicks have nobody of the sort. Toney Douglas is the likely starter as things currently stand, while this year's draft pick Iman Shumpert is entirely unproven.

So, there are risks, expenses, and things to build upon, but the Knicks have their defensive big man and an exceedingly impressive front-court. There may still be moves to make — Baron Davis, if amnestied, could bolster the back-court — but the Knicks are finally approaching a fully-formed, functional basketball team. It feels pretty nice.

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images