Call him a bust, if you want. But if you're looking for someone to root
for in the NBA Finals, as a Bulls fan, here's one player: former Bull
he was the guy the Bulls traded away 20-point, 10-rebound machine Elton
Brand for in 2001. The Bulls had high hopes for Chandler, the number
two overall pick, there's no question about it. His offensive game was
raw coming out of Dominguez High School, but he had upside, so much so
that he was compared to Rasheed Wallace by NBADraft.net.
So much for that. Still, he was a respectable player with the Bulls. Pretty much the same thing he is now: An above-average athlete who makes his mark on the game through hustle, garbage plays, grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds. That's what he was then, and that's what he is now.
Except with age, comes experience and maturity. Now 28 years old, you can tell there's something different about Chandler. He was a former second overall pick, but he doesn't care about his ego or what he should've been. He knows his role now. It's crystal clear for him: Protect the paint, grab clutch rebounds, block shots and bring relentless energy, activity and swagger.
He's the Dallas Mavericks' version of Joakim Noah. At this stage, after watching both play in the postseason, saying Noah is more valuable than Chandler would be a tough case to make.
The way Chandler has played versus the Miami Heat through five games -- averaging 11 points (60 percent shooting), nine rebounds and over one block per game -- is the way the Bulls expected Noah to fare against the "Hollywood" Heat.
For the record, Noah averaged six points (32 percent shooting), 10 rebounds and two blocks versus the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. When Tyson Chandler, who many saw as offensively incompetent during his Bulls days, averages more points than you, it says something.
That isn't a knock on Chandler, though. Although he didn't pan out the way the Bulls wanted, it's hard not to root for the guy. He's came a heck of a long way in his career. Tell you this much: He's not the guy he was in Chicago, the guy always trying to fulfill expectations and, at times, immature.
Chandler had his moments in Chicago, the most memorable being the 2004-05 season: It included several clutch blocks -- this one and this one come to mind -- and he averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks versus the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs.
Now, he finds himself one victory away from an NBA championship. What a journey it's been for the 7-1 former Bull, who's been called the vocal leader by his teammates.
In Game 5 of the Finals, Chandler scored 13 points and made one of the, if not the, biggest plays of the game, taking a charge on LeBron James late in the fourth quarter igniting a big Mavericks run.
ESPNDallas' Jeff Caplan writes: "Center Tyson Chandler,
the 7-1 bearded pogo stick of fire-and-brimstone, has been everything
the Mavericks hoped he would be and what no one knew for sure he could
be. ... James has just 25 [points] in the past two games combined after a career playoff
low of eight in Game 4. He is being bothered by instant traps and
Chandler's imposing presence as the last line of defense."
Added Chandler: "Just the will to win."
You could tell Chandler began to understand his niche in the NBA after being traded by the Bulls in the 2006 offseason. It's a shame he couldn't pan out in Chicago. He was, by most accounts, a good guy off the court. What happened to Chandler occurs all the time in professional sports: A high draft pick plays better after being dealt by the team who spent -- and invested -- so much only to be let down. To a degree, Chandler was run out of town by then head coach Scott Skiles in 2006, as the two always banged heads. And once the Bulls signed free agent Ben Wallace, a signing that was welcomed at the time, the writing was on the wall for Chandler.
Chandler gave the Bulls plenty of memories in Chicago. An NBA title for the Mavericks would be a win-win-win situation for Chicago: The Mavericks defeat the team that beat the Bulls, the Heat lose and Chandler gets a ring. He gets his chance Sunday in Game 6 in Miami, with the Mavericks leading the series 3-2.
You can call him a bust if you want, but Chandler very much looks like the guy who dawned red and white for five seasons. Except he's aged a little bit, nine years to be exact. With age comes maturity, and it's been quite a ride for the former Bull, being the anchor on a championship team.