Wilson Chandler eyes opportunity for postseason redemption

Finally healthy, Denver Nuggets forward ready to erase memory of 2011
by Aaron Lopez

Wilson Chandler has been waiting for his shot at redemption for two years.

The journey included a brief, but eye-opening, experience in China and a strenuous recovery from hip surgery.

At long last, the opportunity is finally here.

“It’s going to be fun,” the even-keeled Nuggets forward said after Denver wrapped up the regular season Wednesday night. “It’s going to be my first healthy playoffs.”

After struggling with an ankle injury in his first NBA postseason appearance in 2011, Chandler missed the 2012 playoffs because of a labral tear in his left hip.

Chandler then missed 34 of Denver’s first 38 games while regaining his strength but has found his groove as the Nuggets prepare to open the playoffs Saturday against the Golden State Warriors.

In the final six games of Denver’s push for the No. 3 seed in the West, Chandler averaged 20.2 points on .524 shooting. In his final 25 games of the season, he averaged 16 points on .510 shooting, including .440 from 3-point range.

“I think he feels his body is at a better place (than any time) since he’s been here in Denver,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “It looks that way, too.

“When I saw him in January starting to play at such a high level, I thought he was the key to our team and probably the key to us being special without (factoring in other) injuries. Now, with the injuries, I think that’s just multiplied.”

Starting forward Danilo Gallinari is out for the playoffs with a torn ACL in his left knee, while fellow big man Kenneth Faried is day-to-day while recovering from a sprained left ankle.

The beauty of having Chandler is that he can scored from anywhere and guard four positions, depending on what lineup combination Karl opts to employ at any given time.

He could be called upon to guard Warriors big men David Lee and Carl Landry in the post, or make things difficult for wings Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes on the perimeter.

“I can use him all over the place,” Karl said. “His defense is first-class.”

In addition to his physical gifts, Chandler has a strong mindset as he prepares to erase the memory of his playoff debut two years ago.

Chandler averaged 4.8 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting .276 from the field during Denver’s 4-1 series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Any time you get the experience of the playoffs, you get a little bit more in your mental repertoire,” he said. “You know what to do, what not to do, how to keep your composure.”

Chandler said he played through ankle problems during the Oklahoma City series, but he never brought up the injury at the time.

“You don’t want to make excuses,” he said. “Just play through it and when you get healthy, you prove yourself.”

Chandler is healthy. He is motivated.

His opportunity for redemption has arrived.