Game Preview | Chandler's Return Bolsters Bench
His appearance may have been brief - only nine minutes, 30 seconds - but it was an appearance nonetheless.
And since we’re talking about Wilson Chandler here, his involvement in the 76ers’ (6-4) 109-99 win over the Detroit Pistons was that much more significant.
That’s because for the past month, Chandler has been working his way back from a left hamstring strain.
That he was simply available to play at all - for however long - marked an encouraging step.
“He is a playoff player,” Brett Brown said Saturday, when Chandler made his anticipated regular season Sixers debut. “He is a modern day player, he can switch multiple positions, he can make a 3-point shot, he is an adult. All of those types of things were appealing when we tried to bring him in.”
The Sixers acquired Chandler, along with a pair of future second-round picks (2021 and a 2022 pick swap), in July trade with the Denver Nuggets.
The thinking was that the 11-year vet would serve as a back-up to Robert Covington, and give the club sought-after depth on the wing.
The plan was put on hold when Chandler got hurt after just three minutes, 40 seconds of action in the Sixers’ pre-season opener.
Against Detroit Saturday, the Benton Harbor, Michigan native was the first Sixer to spell Covington, doing so with five and a half minutes to go in the first quarter. He received a nice hand from the sold-out South Philadelphia crowd, and proceeded to quickly gobble up a defensive rebound, before assisting on a JJ Redick jumper.
Chandler subbed out with a minute to go in the frame, then was summoned again early in the second period. By the time his second and final stint was done, he had totaled four boards, a steal, in addition to the assist.
“I’m just getting my rhythm, getting in shape, and just seeing where I fit in with the team,” Chandler said afterwards.
He also picked up four personal fouls Saturday, a stat that, in a limited capacity, Brown was pleased with, for the following reason:
The head coach viewed the number as a telling sign of how Chandler helped out defending Pistons All-Star Blake Griffin, a top ask of Chandler in the game.
“We needed to find some more pounding, some more sort of wear-down type people that could guard Blake. I thought in that capacity [Chandler] was really good.”
In the long run, the Sixers seem to view Chandler as an important, two-way piece capable of countering some tricky personnel match-ups presented by several Eastern Conference rivals that, like the Sixers, are vying for top playoff seeding.
While Chandler’s primary role will be at the three position, Brown didn’t rule out the possibility of the 31-year old getting situational opportunities at the two, four, and five spots, given his versatility.
For now, though, as Chandler begins to be gradually integrated into the mix, Brown wants the ecosystem surrounding a guy he described as a “quiet pro” to be clean, clear, and straightforward.
“He’s prideful, he’s a pro, and he’s just steady,” Brown said. “I think through that spirit, he’s earned respect from the group, and has done it without even competing with them.
“That alone has made him a valued teammate.”
Value that only figures to rise now that Chandler’s actually on the court.
The Brooklyn Nets (3-6) still skew relatively young -- 12 players on their roster have had five years’ of NBA experience or less.
To date, the Nets have gotten good production out of the backcourt combo of D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert. Russell, entering his second season in Brooklyn after beginning his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, accounts for 14.8 points and 5.2 assists per game, while LeVert is scoring 20.0 points per tilt.
The Nets have been decent at Barclays Center, where they’ve won two of their games. Their two home losses were to last season’s Western Conference finalists, the Golden State Warriors (6 points) and the Houston Rockets (8 points).
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