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Veteran Tyson Chandler sees perfect fit with up and coming Phoenix Suns

To hear new Suns center Tyson Chandler speak, you'd think the Phoenix Suns were a prime destination for NBA free agents.

Chandler was signed to a 4-year, $52 million contract this summer ($13 million per year), the most money committed to an outside free agent since Steve Nash in 2004.

"This is a city that's been thriving and always had an incredible fan base," Chandler said.

Chandler, now 32 years old, has been in the league since 2001, when he was drafted as a teenager by the rebuilding Chicago Bulls. He saw the Suns run roughshod over the league throughout the mid-2000s.

"Tyson makes us coaches feel younger," quipped Suns coach Hornacek, who retired from the NBA in 2000. "Because he's talking about players he played in the league with and we're like ‘wait, we played with those same guys and against those same guys'."

So he's old enough to know what the Phoenix franchise is all about, rather than focusing on the last half-decade past of playoff misses.

"This team has been right on the brink of being in the playoffs the last couple of years," Chandler said. "And I feel like that's the first step, trying to get into the playoffs and you know building from there.

"For me it was all about still being in a situation to succeed and win, being in a great organization, in a good city. I have a family. I have a wife and three children, so that was very important for me."

This is exactly the message the Suns have been trying to spread - that the young Suns were on the edge of the playoffs and just needed a little bit of veteran know-how and moxie to break through that barrier.

But why pick the Suns? There are a lot of teams out there on the brink of winning or who are already winning and making the playoffs.

"When I met with the entire staff," he said. "They laid it out on the table. Around the league you kind of already have an idea. You're on the outside looking in, and it's always been a talented roster, a group of young guys. Then when you get to my position, you think 'where can I fit in? where can I really help and make the most impact?'

"And looking at the Phoenix Suns roster, they beat us three of the four times--" Hornacek jumped in with 'should have been four', "--I saw there was a lot of potential there. A great place for me to come in and make my mark."

Chandler made the decision within hours of the free agency period opening, and barely looked at any other teams after the Suns made their pitch.

"From my side, I knew and understood where I would see myself being," he said. "Once it all started, I just looked at the teams that were in the running. We (him, his wife and the Suns) met, sat down, I had some questions, they answered those questions. And at that point, it was just going back and discussing things with my family and figuring out what was best."

"And the phone calls were still coming in, but at that point I had made up my mind, made my decision. I walked away from the meeting, I was sold. So there was no point going through the ringer and continuing while players were jockeying.

"I knew where I wanted to be."

Joining the Suns had to be about more than a great sales pitch and a roster with potential. It also had to be about comfort level, especially when you're committing four years of your life to a team toward the tail end of your career.

"They made it really comfortable for me and my wife," he said of the meeting with the Suns. "My wife came home and particularly talked about coach and how comfortable she was with the decision and now she's very excited because he made it very well known it's a family atmosphere and that's what they planned on building on."

Tyson also likes the makeup of the team.

"Me as an athlete I'm looking forward to playing with a lot of young talent," he said. "I feel like this is a place where I can come and really mentor and help and try to take this team to the next step."

He talked about Alex Len too, who will be bumped from the starting rotation by the presence of the All-Star caliber Chandler.

"I'm really looking forward to mentoring and working with Alex Len," he said. "I think he's an incredible young player. I got a chance to see him yesterday and I think we're going to work real well together."

Arguably, the Chandler/Len combination at center is the best collection of centers the Suns have ever fielded. One could make a case for the Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez pairing, but both Chandler and Len are better than each of them and neither player is coming in with a chip on his shoulder.

Chandler is an All-Star (2013) and one-time defensive player of the year (2011), while Marcin Gortat will not likely see an All-Star game in his career. Len and Lopez are at comparable spots in their careers (both are/were 22), but Len is not dealing with back issues and has the right attitude to grow under the mentorship - direct or indirect - of Tyson Chandler.

"He has a lot of potential," Chandler said of Len. "I think the combination of the two of us will bring a lot of size in the West, which is really needed."

The Finals showed us that the game may be shifting ever closer to the small lineups, but remember that Golden State needed every inch of Andrew Bogut, himself a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and the Cleveland Cavaliers needed major contributions from Mozgov along the way. Houston has Dwight Howard. San Antonio has Tim Duncan. Portland had Lopez. Dallas had Chandler.

And now the Suns have Chandler AND Len.

"I'm really excited to be here," Chandler said. "For me, it was about the opportunity to still win, compete, be in a great city and have some great young guys and a great organization.

"I feel like I was able to check all those things off the list."

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