With the signing of center Tyson Chandler, one of basketball’s most imposing interior defenders, the Knicks will begin their 2011-2012 season at Madison Square Garden this Sunday, Christmas Day, with arguably the best starting frontcourt in the NBA. The 29-year-old Chandler, along with Amar’e Stoudemire, also 29, and 27-year-old Carmelo Anthony, are in the prime of their careers.

Chandler’s addition addresses the Knicks’ two most pressing needs since head coach Mike D’Antoni’s arrival in 2008, radically improving their defense and defensive rebounding. Last year, when they completed the regular season 42-40, the Knicks were tied with the Golden State Warriors at 27th out of 30 teams in opponents points allowed. Scoring 106.5 per game, second in the league, they gave up 105.7 and couldn’t stop anyone from attacking the rim.

Moreover, the Knicks struggled to control their defensive glass, surrendering 11.8 offensive boards per outing, the fifth worst in the league.

Chandler, at 7-foot-1 and 245 pounds, was a vital member of the Dallas Mavericks’ championship run last season mainly because of his physicality in the paint. Appearing in 74 games, all as a starter, in 27.8 minutes per game he averaged an influential 10.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.

Furthermore, Chandler is a selfless and unrelenting worker who is low maintenance. While the Knicks’ backcourt doesn’t have a top 10 player at either position, it is still capable of holding its own. With Toney Douglas, Landry Fields and rookie Iman Shumpert, the unit posses size, youth and athleticism.

Veteran Mike Bibby brings a steady hand and deadeye shooting. If new signee Baron Davis is healthy and fit by April when the playoffs begin, the Knicks, who should enter the postseason no less than third overall in the Eastern Conference, will be a formidable challenger for the conference title.