By Scott Howard-Cooper, for NBA.com
Posted Sep 3 2009 12:07PM
His toe feels good, as it did all last season in rebuttal to the massive red flag in Oklahoma, his ankle is strong again and, by the way, his heart is fine too. Being traded was not a great shock to the system, after all. Tyson Chandler had been sort-of dealt once and knew he would be for-sure dealt soon enough, the way his New Orleans Hornets teammates knew. It's just the details that were finalized July 28: Chandler to the Bobcats for Emeka Okafor.
Charlotte. Chandler is going backward in the standings and backward in his life, having helped the Bulls dig out of the lottery after hitting town as a rookie. He helped the Hornets work through a new level of difficulty by arriving for a lottery season and the post-Katrina uncertainty of Oklahoma City or New Orleans as a home base.
This isn't that. The Bobcats might be sold, starting point guard Raymond Felton remains an unsigned restricted free agent and attendance is particularly disappointing in a city that once set turnstile records. But Charlotte was in the Playoff chase until the final full week of 2008-09 and could be very good on defense.
Maybe Chandler is excited about the new beginning: "I'm excited. I'm very excited. First of all, I'm excited to play under coach [Larry] Brown. I had a chance to talk to him and I'm excited that he respects my game as much as he does. I'm excited to learn. I'm excited to play with a lot of young players. I feel like I've got an opportunity to get there and take 'em over the hump and really make a playoff push."
Training camp can't get here quick enough. It's an opportunity to push the Bobcats into the postseason, it is also a chance to feel settled for the first time in about a year, and maybe even in seasons. Chicago 2005-06, New Orleans/Oklahoma City with the Hornets in 2006-07, New Orleans in 2007-08, and the soft ground of 2008-09.
He was traded to the Thunder in February only to have Oklahoma City void the deal because of an injury to his left big toe two seasons before. He then missed long stretches at a time because of a badly sprained left ankle that kept him to 45 games, and finally the implosion that was the Hornets in the first round of the Playoffs.
The final damage report was 8.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in the regular season and 3.8 and 5.3, respectively, in the postseason loss to Denver while missing another game because of the same ankle problem. Chandler could see it was the end of the line there. So did other Hornets. The deal was hardly the salary dump most wrongly assumed would go down in New Orleans, with Okafor due more years and a lot more money, but either way, Chandler was done.
"It's been crazy," he said. "Before that trade, we had plans on making a championship run. Me and a couple of the other guys would always talk about it, saying we were just a piece away. Then when the [Thunder] trade hit, we were like, 'We're not going in that direction.' The trade was reversed and I spent the year there, but we all knew in the back of our heads that this time was going to come, where I was going to get moved. It's kind of like we were playing but it was always in the back of our heads that this wasn't going to last very long."
Being the target of constant trade speculation "didn't bother me. I know the rules of the game and I know they weren't going to move Chris [Paul], they weren't going to move David [West]. I was a piece that a lot of other teams wanted. On one hand, it feels great to be wanted. On the other hand, I wanted to finish something that I started. It was kind of mixed emotions."
In Charlotte, his athleticism will be coveted, his four trips to the postseason with the Bulls and Hornets will be appreciated and his versatility will be used, with Brown planning to play Chandler at center and power forward. Funny, it doesn't feel like going backward.
More like moving on, from the constant swirl of 2008-09, from having to keep his bags packed, from the disappointing numbers in an attempt to reclaim the form of averaging double-figure rebounds the two previous seasons. Everything feels good again.
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