Tyson Chandler raised a few eyebrows after Friday night's victory over the Lakers, when he said (with a grin) that "[...] where I am in my career, I wanna win, I wanna win now, I'm not in any kind of rebuilding stage, so if that's the case ... it ain't where I'm supposed to be."
Check the video for yourself here.
Judging by Chandler's tone, it didn't appear that he was speaking out of any sort of frustration. Most likely he was referring to the excellent game he just had in a Suns' victory (12 points, 17 rebounds, 2 blocks) and making it clear that he isn't content to fiddle about during the twilight of his career while he cashes in what is possibly his last NBA contract.
While he has certainly been guilty of taking a game off here and there (like most veterans in his situation would be), he hasn't otherwise shown any sign of discontentment with being a part of the Suns organization and has done plenty to earn the benefit of the doubt.
Still, he raises an interesting question. Exactly what stage are the Phoenix Suns at in their efforts to build a contender?
One could look at the rash of key injuries the team has suffered and write the season off as a mulligan. Eric Bledsoe was enjoying an All-Star caliber season before going down with another meniscus tear; Brandon Knight looked worthy of the Suns' investment while playing alongside Bledsoe early in the season; the emergence of Devin Booker and the improvement of Alex Len should make the Suns a deeper team than when they kicked off the season back in October.
Additionally, they were playing under the cloud of Markieff Morris all the way until the February trade deadline, and for a coach in Jeff Hornacek that seemed to have completely lost his grasp on the team.
Conversely, others might see all the mishaps of the last 12 months as only superficial details of a bigger problem -- the Suns were never an adequately-designed squad to begin with, and each unfortunate turn of events only served to transform a thirtysomething-win season into a twentysomething-win season.
Heading into Year 4 of the McDonough regime, the rebuild is still barely past its infancy.
On top of that, what happens if Bledsoe loses a step? As dynamic a player as he turned out to be, he hasn't exactly been known as a cerebral type of point guard throughout his career. The Suns' dramatic nosedive after losing Bledsoe underscores his importance to the team, and since he relies heavily on his quickness and athleticism, in turn, so do the Suns.
Whether or not Chandler meant to voice any displeasure over his current status, if the glass is indeed half-empty, he's absolutely right. This ain't where he's supposed to be.
The Suns might have three first-round picks in the draft for the second time in three years. While the top brass would likely prefer to package their assets for a superstar player, one need only to look at the Celtics for an indication of how viable a strategy that is.
Danny Ainge has pilfered a treasure trove of draft picks, namely from the Nets and Mavericks, to go with a number of youngsters who have already proven to be valuable rotation players while still possessing plenty of room for improvement. Yet they haven't cashed in on a single star player despite being linked to just about everyone who has shown the slightest inkling of being available for trade.
Still, that hasn't stopped Robert Sarver from dreaming big. In an interview with Paul Coro, he again hinted at the Suns being a player in the summer of 2016. Obviously he isn't deterred by the notion that the rapid growth shown by the organization during the 2013/14 season was derailed by unsuccessful free agency dalliances in consecutive summers -- first with LeBron James, which allegedly drove away key big man Channing Frye, and then LaMarcus Aldridge, which stuck the Suns with Chandler and lit the fuse on the already combustible Markieff Morris situation.
While building through the draft isn't any closer to being an infallible strategy than playing the superstar game -- see Orlando and Philadelphia for the most recent examples -- it makes abundantly more sense when the roster is already populated with Booker and Len and T.J. Warren, plus as many as three other incoming first-rounders with one possibly being a top-3 pick.
Chandler has shown usefulness on this Suns team, even with a patchwork roster that does very little to complement his skills. He is probably still a better option than Len at starting center if the team is looking to crack the playoff bracket. But he's also an unfortunate reminder of the risk of gambling in the open market, or as Zach Lowe put it, the vestigial organ leftover from the failed pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge.
Even though they seem to be getting along well enough, neither Tyson Chandler nor the Suns need one another.
Chandler needs to be playing meaningful games and getting the most out of his basketball abilities while they still exist. The Suns need to stop fiddling with pipe dreams before they ruin another season. Their young core is about to get even younger and more expansive, and it should be the organization's highest priority to give it the proper means to develop chemistry.
What comes of Chandler during the summer of 2016 will signify much about what the Suns' plans really are. While he is currently not offering much production for his dollar amount, every GM in the NBA is about to have a ton of extra cash with which to play fast and loose. Chandler has a history of getting teams over the proverbial hump, and if anyone thinks he still has the ability to make such an impact, his price tag likely won't be a dealbreaker.
The picture will become a lot clearer once the June draft is completed, but for now, there simply isn't enough room or purpose to Tyson Chandler being a part of this team's future.