The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t looked like a completely different team since Tyson Chandler first showed up, but they do look like the team they probably always should have been. Their attempt at a commitment to small-ball was not going to work out and looked like it might damn any chance at achieving their goals this season.
Chandler has helped booster the Lakers rotation so there are no minutes where it feels like the team is a complete abomination on defense, and has made an impact on offense by creating more possessions with tap-outs or setting soul-crushing screens.
Chandler’s arrival mathematically meant a slight decrease in role for JaVale McGee, but Chandler doesn’t want anyone to see it that way, as he told Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“It’s not about me and him,” Chandler said. “I am not here to take anybody’s job. I am here to try to make the team better. My hope is to make his job easier, so he stays fresh so he can play throughout the year and give us the type of minutes that he’s giving. As well as me. The goal is for us to help each other, not go against each other.”
This is the absolute correct approach to his teaming up with McGee — though it’s easy to understand how Chandler, a long-time NBA veteran who has made an estimated $185M might see it that way. This isn’t to say McGee is living thinly, but at this stage of his career, one can safely assume he might think he has more to prove than his newest teammate.
For example, something Ganguli wrote — and something McGee said — caught my eye:
With Chandler in the mix, the Lakers were able to take some pressure off McGee, which isn’t something McGee wanted. But with Chandler’s addition undeniably improving the Lakers, McGee isn’t one to complain about it.
“I don’t know if he’s made it easier, I mean, my job’s not hard,” McGee said. “I don’t want it to seem like, ‘Oh I need help, ahhhh,’ nah. But yeah, he’s definitely helped me.”
Before Chandler showed up, McGee was the unquestioned and unchallenged centerpiece of the center rotation. Michael Beasley and Ivica Zubac haven’t looked like NBA players this season and Moe Wagner is still recovering from an offseason’s worth of a knee bruise. McGee was feasting statistically because there simply wasn’t anyone else around capable of impacting the game the way he was.
Now that Chandler is a Laker, that isn’t the case. And while McGee might have wished to remain the team’s lone NBA-caliber center, as Chandler says above, this is objectively a better team with Chandler on it. That’s the whole point of all this.
McGee and Chandler are both providing value well beyond what they’re being paid on a pair of veteran’s minimum contracts. The longer they continue to do so, the higher the probability goes that it pays off for both down the road.