EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Tyson Chandler revealed Tuesday that he narrowed a list of potential landing spots to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors before negotiating a buyout with the Phoenix Suns.
“It was, like, five teams, and I narrowed it down to two,” said Chandler, who starred at Compton’s Dominguez High School. “And then I had to do some heavy thinking and praying.
“And then I [could] only see myself in a Lakers uniform. So it kind of made the decision for me.”
The Lakers (7-6) have won three straight games with Chandler on the floor and have won five of six entering Wednesday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The 36-year-old center is averaging 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals in 22.7 minutes off the bench. He has played crucial fourth-quarter minutes through three games, most recently notching a game-winning block on Trae Young at the buzzer to allow the Lakers to escape with a 107-106 win over the Hawks on Sunday.
“I mean, he’s huge,” LeBron James said. “We knew we had a [backup center] spot that needed some reassurance, and for us to be able to get Tyson in the fashion that we got him and to be able to just implement him in right away and the impact that he’s made in what, three games?”
“You see a lot of game-winning shots. You see a lot of game-winning assists,” James said after the win over Atlanta. “But for you to see a game-winning defensive block like that, you don’t see that much in our league. So for him to go up there and get that on a guy that’s shooting a floater and time it perfectly, we were all excited about that.”
Prior to Chandler’s arrival, Los Angeles skewed toward the bottom third of the league with a 111.5 defensive rating. With Chandler, the Lakers’ defensive rating has rocketed to 97.4, first in the league, though a small sample.
While McGee has been playing some of the best basketball of his career (13.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks), that has come with his most minutes since the 2011-12 season. Chandler’s arrival allowed Lakers coach Luke Walton to find more opportunities to rest L.A.’s starting center.
But the veteran wanted to assure McGee that he was coming in to support all the Lakers.
“For me, I try to make it, 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.”
McGee shared the sentiment when asked about any drop-off when subbing out for Chandler.
“He’s damn near the same player I am,” McGee said. “I fit in pretty [good], so I figure [he] will too.”
Chandler is thankful that he’s in a situation where he is playing in games that matter on a playoff contender.
“Very surprised,” Chandler said of his release from his contract in Phoenix. “But I was thankful to the Suns for allowing me to leave at that moment because if you come in February or March, it’s difficult on a player because you are so behind, and then you go right into the playoffs, and you don’t really get the opportunity to gel as much as you would like to.
“So for me getting it done this early, it gives me a chance to gel with the guys, hit the stride with the guys, go through the ups and downs, really be a part of the team, so come playoff time we are really together on one accord.”