Chandler sees Knicks as potential contender


Mar 12

It seems like an eternity ago when Tyson Chandler joined the Bulls as a 19-year old rookie straight out of Compton, California’s Dominguez High School in 2001.

And while Chandler has previously returned to the place he started his professional career since leaving Chicago in the summer of 2006, the 11th year veteran admitted it’s still special to be back.

“It’s weird, even coming into the city [Sunday], I realized how much I enjoy the city now that I’m away and I’m older,” said Chandler on Monday. “I’m able to appreciate the city. I think I was way too young when I came here to really recognize the culture and everything the city has to offer. It’s definitely one of my favorite cities.”

After five seasons with the Bulls, Chandler landed with the Hornets for three years, then played one season apiece with the Bobcats and Mavericks. He played a key role in helping Dallas get past the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals, then signed a four-year deal to join the New York Knicks upon conclusion of last summer’s NBA lockout.

Though the free agency process got him where he wanted, Chandler didn’t enjoy it.

“It was a bit much for me,” said Chandler, averaging 11.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game this season. “I was glad for it to be over.”

But, Chandler explained, it was worth it for what he believed was a chance to win.

“I felt like it was a great opportunity,” said Chandler of joining the Knicks. “I saw the potential in this team and I felt like it definitely could be a contender. And I still believe it. I know we’re going through a tough stretch right here. Everything can be difficult and everything is magnified in New York, especially. But I really feel like with this team, when we come together, and I know we will, we’ll be a tough team.”

Chandler’s initial transition to New York wasn’t an easy one, he admitted, saying the season has been difficult in general with its truncated nature and quick start.

Still, his numbers are above his career averages and even though the Knicks came to Chicago on the heels of a five-game losing streak, Chandler feels the team has what it takes to be a threat once the postseason arrives.

“We’ve got to get back and look at what we did when we were winning,” said Chandler of the Knicks, who won seven straight in February as point guard Jeremy Lin burst onto the scene. “We had a fast-paced offense, we were getting up and down the floor, our defense was getting set and we were communicating out there. A lot of times now, we let our offense dictate our defense, which we have to get away from. We miss a couple shots, we hang our heads, and the other team gets quick baskets. We’ve got to get out of that habit and we’ve got to get out of it really fast.”

As for facing the Bulls, Chandler knows that the key to stopping Chicago is to slow down the reigning NBA MVP.

“This is a fast paced team driven by Derrick Rose, obviously,” said Chandler. “He’s a tough matchup [because] he’s so explosive and he puts so much pressure on the defense, which allows their bigs to hit the offensive glass and get a lot of putbacks. We’ve got to do a good job of getting back in transition and building a wall, try to slow them down.”

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