Last season with the Phoenix Suns was one of the best of Tyson Chandler’s career by many measures. He had the third highest rebound per game total (11.5) of his 16 year career and also had his second highest field goal percentage (67.1%) and career best free throw percentage (73.4%).
Adjusting for playing time, Tyson actually had a career best 14.9 rebounds per 36 minutes played.
If he had qualified for NBA leaders based on minutes played Chandler’s 11.5 rebounds per game would have put him eighth in the league and his true shooting percentage (70.3%) would have been first overall.
It was unfolding to be a pretty good year for Chandler.
A little too good.
When the Suns implemented their “Strategic Resting” policy, Tyson suddenly looked very, very tired.
So tired, in fact, that Chandler had to sit the last 25 games of the season to “rest up” for the 2017-18 campaign.
Now that he is feeling fresh and spry, at least as fresh and spry as a guy who turns 35 next week can feel, what will the upcoming season hold for the team’s elder statesman?
The most obvious paths would seem to be...
1. Chandler is reinstated as the team’s starting center and maintains that position as long as he remains the team’s best option.
2. Chandler is reinstated as the team’s starting center until losses become paramount to wins and once again falls prey to “Strategic Resting”.
3. Chandler is traded.
I caught up with Tyson at media day to ask him about these possibilities.
After having a summer to reflect on his benching last year it doesn’t seem like Tyson harbors any ill will against the franchise.
“The organization had to do what was best for the future of the organization,” explained Chandler. “I thought they were very respectful about it and communicated with me beforehand.”
Chandler was very professional about the way he handled the resting situation last season. He continued to be a leader and positive presence and never said anything negative about the development. Tyson knows going into this season that his role on this team is a little different than others in the past.
“I understand that I serve a bigger purpose here helping build a bright future for the young guys on this team,” said Chandler. “I’m just hoping to share my knowledge, hold them accountable and push them every day.”
Still, looking at the potential of a second straight season of playing (or even not playing) on a bad team has the potential to wear on a person. If Chandler is still playing at a high level it seems reasonable he might draw interest from other teams... or even be interested in leaving himself. If it does get to that Tyson doesn’t envision a Paul George, Carmelo Anthony or even Goran Dragic type of departure.
“I would never make anything like that public,” Tyson declared with conviction. “I think that Ryan (McDonough), Robert (Sarver) and I have a very good relationship and respect each other enough for that to be kept in house.”
For now it seems like Tyson likes his role and management reciprocates those feelings.
Ryan McDonough was effusive of his praise for Chandler at media day, but also admitted that “Strategic Resting” could once again become an issue.
So, Ryan, is a resting policy still fair game for the upcoming season depending on team performance?
“I hope not,” Ryan laughed. “I hope not. I think the goal going into any season is not to look at next year’s draft or lottery. I think our goal is to win as many games as we can. How many that is I don’t really know.”
“In February I might have a different answer for you, but I hope not. I hope our team exceeds expectations. It is a young team and in some ways it reminds me of my first year here where the expectations were really low, but we had a good feeling and a good vibe... so we’ll see.”
To me that sounds like Ryan is keeping everything on the table.
So for those of you who were aghast at the idea of “tanking”... brace yourselves.
As it stands now, though, the Suns appear to be happy with Tyson Chandler as a veteran presence on this team and think he is also happy at this point.
“Tyson has been great”, said Ryan. “He’s gone out of his way to tell Earl (Watson), Robert (Sarver) and me just how much he likes it here. I think he has pretty much accomplished everything he wants in terms of winning an NBA championship, winning a gold medal, being defensive player of the year and making a lot of money so I think that influences his thinking.
“Nobody would be surprised if a guy in his situation or with his resume would come to management and say this isn’t working... please send me to a contender, but he’s actually done the opposite. He’s said I like being here, I like being a mentor to these young men. I want to see them do well and I want to see coach Watson do well. Just let me know what my role is and what I can do to help.
“It’s a little bit rare and unique compared to how most athletes would approach this, but Tyson is a pretty unique guy. He’s a very bright guy and understands the big picture.
“Right now Tyson is our veteran leader. When he speaks everybody listens and because of who he is and what he has accomplished his voice carries a lot of weight.”
There is definitely value in having a player like Chandler around to teach the young players how to become professionals. Being a pro basketball player entails a lot more than just shooting hoops. Being a professional is a mindset and a lifestyle.
As long as Tyson is happy, the arrangement works out fine for the Suns. They are under no pressure to shop Chandler or even listen to offers with any real level of interest... offers that may very well come as the season progresses.
But depending on if “Strategic Resting” starts to become more of a probability heading into the trade deadline it seems logical that Tyson, Ryan and Robert might be having some kind of conversation to see where they all still stand.
Even if things change for Tyson this year don’t expect a public trade demand or messy divorce. That just doesn’t seem like Chandler’s style.
But don’t be surprised if Tyson Chandler finishes the 2017-18 season in a different team’s uniform... not receiving DNP-rests.