Five. That’s the number Tyson Chandler chose to wear with the Los Angeles Lakers when he signed with the team in November. It’s also the number of games they’ve lost since signing him.
That’s right, the Lakers have gone 13-5 since Chandler joined the team after starting the season off 4-6 without him. Coincidence? Not a chance.
Chandler gave the Lakers a defensive anchor in the second unit, something they were desperately lacking. In the games since he signed, the Lakers have the sixth-best defensive rating in the NBA (104.6). He’s been one bad mamma jamma.
Chandler had his options when he hit free agency, including the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, but he chose the Lakers. In an interview on ESPN LA’s “Lakers Talk with Allen Sliwa,” Chandler said the team’s young core had a lot to do with his decision:
“I love the way things are coming together in L.A., and it’s honestly something that I just wanted to be a part of. I already liked the young talent that was here. I had a personal relationship with Kuz. Right after he got drafted he came and trained with me a little bit, so I got to know him, and of course got to see his hot start to his career and the work he’s been putting in since.
“I see the intangibles in Brandon and Josh, so I already love the young squad that they put together and then when they added LeBron this summer and they started putting some veteran pieces in there with JaVale, Rondo, Beas, Lance. I saw something there.
“And then when I had the opportunity to choose the next team that I wanted to go, I said ‘I feel like this fits me.’ It’s an opportunity to come back and play on the team in the city that I grew up in. I’ve been a fan of Magic, been a fan of Shaq, been a fan of Kobe, and the fact that Magic has this thing by the steering wheel, I wanted to hop on board and help us steer it in the right direction.”
Now, before you freak out and say “He DiDn’T pRaIsE lOnZo,” don’t worry, he saved his best praise for Ball, going as far as to say Lonzo Ball reminded him of a recent Hall of Fame inductee:
“I’m a fan of Lonzo. Watching his story, watching him throughout college... He has a chance to be a great point guard in our league. I think he has a chance to be like a guy, and I hate to put that legend out there like that, but like a guy that I played with, Jason Kidd.”
Chandler’s view of the young core and the culture within the organization is one the front office has to be hoping other free agents share. They won’t have to be as reliant on the league-wide view of their young players now as they have been in year’s past because they have LeBron James, but it certainly won’t hurt the pitches they make to free agents next summer.
Perhaps not every free agent will be as high on Ball as Chandler is, but it’s evident that players are starting to have interest in what the Lakers are building.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.