The Los Angeles Lakers did not announce the signing of Tyson Chandler until after Tuesday’s practice, which left Wednesday’s shootaround as his only formal gathering with the team before their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Nonetheless, head coach Luke Walton said he planned to play Chandler. However, how much the veteran center was going to be leaned on was unknown, given the lack of familiarity with the offense and conditioning level due to recent days of minimal activity.
Chandler wound up playing 23 minutes off the bench and found himself on the court down the stretch of a close game. He helped the Lakers preserve their lead by batting out the ball for offensive rebounds in the final minute.
“He was good. Obviously that possession with all those tap outs late in the game really helped seal the deal,” Walton said.
“He’s been a winning player, he’s a champion, spent a lot of years in this league. He gave us a taste of what he could do.”
Chandler was eager to play his first game with the Lakers so as to get past an anticipated homecoming and shift all the focus to growing with the team. He received a loud ovation upon entering the game for the first time.
“It’s honestly all love. I love this city the way they love me,” he said.
“When you’re homegrown from here, going to high school and all that, and you’ve had these same fans that have been watching and now you represent the jersey that everybody has been cheering for their entire lives, you kind of become one. I’ve been on the other side and been the villain. Now it’s great to be on this side.”
While Chandler was appreciative of the fans’ adoration, he was equally grateful for the guidance Rajon Rondo provided. “Rondo was a huge help. I think he vocally was telling me where to be at all times, making eye contact with me.” Chandler said.
“And I’ve seen the sets enough to pick up on them. I knew the basics but clearly I didn’t know second and third options, so just reading body language and going from there.”
Chandler made just one of his four field goal attempts but pulled down nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, and was instrumental in the Lakers holding Karl-Anthony Towns without a basket in the second half.
Heading into the matchup with the Timberwolves, Walton said there weren’t any expectations in place for Chandler because of the minimal time to prepare. But what he saw matched the desired result.
“When you get lost in competition and competing for the right reasons, it doesn’t matter if you’re new on a team or not,” Walton said. “He was out there bringing his strengths, and that was communicating and talking. It was what we were hoping for.”