Points of View: How Tyson Chandler Signed with Phoenix

Barry Gossage/NBAE
by Matt Petersen

A free agent signing involves multiple moving parts. The most significant is the player himself, but everyone involved plays an important role in the process. Suns.com's Matt Petersen caught up with four characters involved in Phoenix's big offseason acquisition -- Tyson Chandler, Ryan McDonough, Jeff Hornacek and Lon Babby -- to get their individual takes on how the 7-1 big man became a Phoenix Sun.

On how Chandler/Phoenix first made the short list of offseason options...

Chandler: At this point in my career, for me it was about having and opportunity to still win, compete, be in a great city and have some great young guys in a great organization. I feel like I was able to check all those things off the list.

When you get to my position, you look at 'Where will I fit? Where can I really help and make the most impact?' Looking at the Phoenix Suns roster and competing against them last year...I saw there was a lot of potential there.

McDonough: Usually what we do, right after we're done playing, we sit down and start planning for free agency. One of the reasons we do it right after the season is because it’s pretty fresh. You have a good recollection of the 14 teams that aren’t in the playoffs. It also helps you focus while you’re watching the playoff games, helps you focus on the elite players that you might be able to get as free agents in the upcoming summer.

One-on-One with Tyson Chandler

One of the areas of need for us coming into the offseason was rebounding, having a post presence. Alex Len’s made tremendous strides over the last couple of years. He’s still 22 years old. He’s improving dramatically, but at the same time he’s 22 and there are 48 minutes a game. When you look at the elite teams now – with the way they study sports medicine and look at the benefits of rest and limiting the wear and tear on bodies – a lot of the top players in the league, including the MVP Stephen Curry, don’t play more than 32 or 33 minutes a game. We knew, either way, we wanted to get a high-level player to play some of those center minutes. Tyson fit that role, but he also fit – as or more importantly – with his winning experience.

Hornacek: For what we needed, we felt that a veteran guy that can add leadership and then can play, obviously with Alex being a young player – he’s going to be a great player – anything to help him learn, for us it was a perfect fit.

Babby: Once you see what happens in the draft, you can really focus in on [your free agent list]. It’s really interesting, because it depends on how the calendar falls. This year, we had the draft on a Thursday and free agency beginning on [Tuesday night, local time]. That gave us a window in which we could form a plan and execute it.

On how quickly things unfolded in the first hours of free agency...

Chandler: I knew and understood before everything even started where I would even see myself being. Once it all started, I looked at the teams that were in the running. Once free agency started, we met, sat down. I had questions. They answered those questions. At that point, it was just going back and discussing things with my family and figuring out what was best.

Chandler Press Conference

The phone calls at that time were still coming in. At that point, I had made up my mind. I walked away from the meeting, I felt like there was no point in going through the ringer and continuing the player jockeying. I knew where I wanted to be. Also, I wanted it to be done early because I wanted other guys to see how committed the Suns were and have the opportunity to bring guys in.

McDonough: We were able to get him to come by the hotel pretty quickly, probably a couple hours after free agency started. Once we sat across the table from he and his wife, talked about the deal and then talked to his agent about it, it all got done pretty quickly.

Hornacek: It came up so fast, we had other trips planned that we ended up cancelling. Once Tyson said he wanted to come here...we knew we were going to lose out on some guys that maybe we could go for. We think we’ve taken those steps of at least getting consideration from these big-time free agents. We signed Tyson. Going forward, we know it will bode well for future guys.

Babby: One of the nice things about being out west is that you begin the process at nine o’clock [local time] instead of midnight.

We did the meetings at the Palomar Hotel in L.A. We met with Tyson and his wife. We made the decision that he was the premier free agent for us to hit the ground running. A lot of people thought we signed him as a lure to get somebody else. You don’t do that. You sign him because you know he’s going to add all the things we talked about [in the press conference] – professionalism, leadership, character, help us build our culture. He’s the most highly credentialed player on our team now.

On the first impression Chandler/Phoenix made in the meeting...

Chandler: Free agency is always a difficult time for me. I'm a guy that would rather stick in one place and be there. They made it really comfortable for myself and my wife. My wife came home and talked particularly about Coach [Hornacek] and said how comfortable she was with the decision and how she was really excited because he made it very well known that it's a family atmosphere.

Chandler Highlights

McDonough: Just his leadership ability. His natural poise and composure. He’s a man of the highest character. He’s a family man. His wife actually came to the initial meeting in L.A. She was extremely impressive as well. They have three cute young kids. He’s just a good man. He’s the kind of person you want your organization to have on your team and hopefully build around. He checks a number of boxes on and off the court for us.

You hear things about somebody and do as much background and research as you want, but you don’t really know all of what goes along with them until you sit across the table from them and look them in the eye and have a chance to talk to them. 

Hornacek: We know these guys from playing. I didn’t really know him prior to that, didn’t really talk to him. Five minutes into it, you say, ‘okay, this is a great dude. He’s alright.’ He’s very straightforward. You can just tell with guys. We felt very comfortable, right from the start, saying this guy would be fantastic for our team. He is saying all the right things and what we were looking for. 

Babby: You know of him by reputation. I had never met him before. You sit across the table from him and his wife, Kimberly, and you just know that you’re in the presence of completely trustworthy, honorable people of high character who have the right values, who reflect the values you want to have for your organization.

On what they wanted to emphasize most in the meeting...

McDonough: Tyson ended up signing a four-year contract with us. Any time either side makes a commitment for that length of time, you both want to know what the blueprint is, what the roster looks like currently and what we’re trying to do over the next four years. We sat down with Tyson and we had some ideas of our own. We talked  to him about Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, two elite young guards in their mid-twenties and just what we thought they could do and become over the next four or five years.

Once he was able to look at the roster and see where he would fit in and see the potential for growth over the next couple years – and also what else we could do in free agency whether it was this summer  or the next few years – Tyson got excited, not only about the present, but the future as well.

Hornacek: Even though Tyson’s been in the league for 14 years, he’s still only 32. The way he plays and the condition he keeps himself in, he knows he’s going to play four or five more years. We have the guys that were on the cusp of taking it to the next level, maybe getting a little bit better, but we just need someone to be that guy. I think everybody late in their career kind of enjoys that role. They kind of like being that veteran guy that can direct a team. When he talked about him wanting to do that, and we knew we’d be able to pull in other guys as the years go on, it was a great fit for us and it seemed to be a great fit for him.

Babby: The point I try to emphasize is, having had a window into all 30 teams as an agent, I’m in a position to understand best practices. What we’ve tried to do since I’ve been here is take the best practices from all those teams and create the most player-friendly environment that we could. We emphasize Joyce Ponder and the work she does with the family room. The medical staff and the training staff. All of those things that are essential to the well-being of the player and his family that I think makes this a particularly attractive place to be.

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