After going 0-3 to start the season, it didn’t always seem like the Los Angeles Lakers were destined to make the NBA playoffs. Even with LeBron James, who has appeared in the postseason every year since 2006.
However, after they signed Tyson Chandler to fill the glaring hole they had at the backup center position, they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Since Chandler’s debut on Nov. 7, the Lakers have had the second-highest winning percentage in the league (66.7 percent), only trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder (70 percent).
Some would argue that the Lakers, who sit at the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, are ahead of schedule while others, like Chandler, thinks it’s harder to gauge how far this team can go.
In an interview with Allen Sliwa on ESPN LA 710’s “Lakers Talk,” Chandler said that he feels there is no limit to what the Lakers can achieve this season because of their young core:
“I don’t think we have a ceiling, to be quite honest, because the young core is going to kind of be the x-factor as far as what our ceiling is. You know what you’re going to get from ‘Bron, he’s been in the finals for the last however many years. You know what kind of competitor Rondo is. You know myself. And again JaVale, and Lance and the crew.
“You know the older cats. The younger guys are going to be the X-Factor, and I love the progress that I’m seeing.”
He’s been especially impressed with the way the way those same young players have handled the drastic change in expectations from last season to this season:
“It’s not easy for a young talented crew like that to be drafted all together and around each other and playing for the future, and then all of a sudden you’ve got all these veteran guys thrown into the mix where it’s like ‘okay, we’ve got a chance to win now. Scratch that future, scratch that we’re going to take our time, scratch that it’s your team and all of that.’”
“It takes a little while for young guys to adjust to that. They’ve been in the locker room, they’ve been the big dogs, they’ve been the show and all of that, and now you’ve got some older vets coming in that’s a little established... You’ve got to go through a grooming period and a moment where guys try to understand where they land in all of this.
“I love the approach that the young players have gone about it (with). They’ve all been gracious, they’ve all been eager to learn, they all are winners and I think because of that, because there’s not huge egos in the locker room, everybody’s agenda is wanting to win.”
Chandler doesn’t know exactly what to expect from the young guys when the postseason rolls around, but he feels confident that they’ll be able to contribute at a high-level:
“I honestly see some big things for these youngsters when it comes down to playoff time, when it comes to a clutch series, I really honestly see them in the future stepping up, but it’s going to take us throughout the season us vets to groom them and prepare them for that moment.”
One way Chandler has been able to help the young Lakers grow is through advice. With 18 years of experience in the NBA and a championship is under his belt, Chandler knows a thing or two about how to make it in the league, and he’s shared that wisdom with the young core:
“Just do your job, don’t get caught up with everything, all the hype, everything around you, being in L.A. You’ve just got to focus on you, what benefits you day to day. You got drafted and you brought here for a reason,” Chandler said of his advice to his younger teammates.
“The only thing you’ve got to do is continue to try to capitalize on your talent. Continue to work every single day, continue to learn, continue to strive, continue to try to best you. You can’t be anybody else. Even though I compared Lonzo to Jason Kidd earlier as I came on, he can’t be Jason Kidd. Just like Jason Kidd couldn’t be whoever he tried to patter his game after.
“You can take different things from the legends that come before you but then ultimately you’ve got to just be yourself. A lot of those guys already get that... Now it’s just putting in the work, continuing to learn, continuing to sharpen your iron and let all that weight fall on us vets.”
Chandler’s understanding of the game, both on and off the court, is one of the many reasons the Lakers brought him on with their final roster spot in November. It’s unclear how many more seasons Chandler has left in him, but as long as he’s in Los Angeles, he’ll continue to be a valuable resource for his teammates, whether it’s backing up on defense or helping advise them on how to succeed in the NBA.