Wilson Chandler is a unique NBA player. He’s more willing to speak with the media than most, and when asked a thoughtful question, he’ll provide an even more thoughtful response. Since the summer, Chandler has tweeted and discussed his thoughts on many topics that are somewhere between sports and societal issues. So this writer had a laundry list of items to discuss.
“I’ve never played football – especially at that level,” Chandler told Basketball Insiders when asked about retired Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. “But I respect Luck’s decision. I can’t imagine what his body’s been through. I respect his decision for him and for his family and his body and where he was mentally.”
Chandler’s comments about Luck’s retirement are relevant to the NBA – namely because, as a professional athlete himself, he too must contend with (often times incorrect) perceptions about himself.
“Sometimes, fans look at it like, ‘What would I do in that situation?’ But you’re not in their shoes,” Chandler continued. “And I think he (Luck) made a great decision for himself and his family and his future.”
Chandler signed with the Brooklyn Nets this past offseason, in part, because it gave him an opportunity to compete for a championship. His season got off to an unusually-late start thanks to a 25-game suspension for PEDs. He first suited up for the Nets on Dec. 15.
He’s only five games into his tenure with the Nets, but the is area isn’t new to Chandler. He was drafted by the New York Knicks in 2007 and spent more than three seasons in the Big Apple before being sent to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade.
“New York is always amazing,” Chandler said. “It’s different, though, being here than being in Westchester (where the Knicks training facility is) or Manhattan. Brooklyn is a different vibe.”
Chandler emphasized the importance of team culture in his decision to sign with the Nets.
“It always starts at the top,” Chandler said. “Ownership is great (in Brooklyn). Sean [Marks] is great. He hires great people under him. The new assistant GM is great. Kenny [Atkinson] is great. His coaching staff is great. His PT staff is great. The weight training staff is great.
“Not only are they really good at their jobs, but they’re really good people, too,” Chandler continued. “He (Marks) does a really great job of putting a team together with great players and good people in the locker room. I don’t think there’s one person in the locker room that dislikes someone else on the team, or even on the staff.”
Chandler’s signing was overshadowed by that of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. But if you understand Chandler’s game, then you already knew he was going to impact the team on and off of the floor.
In his 11-year NBA career, Chandler has established himself as a capable offensive contributor and a versatile, skilled defender. He’s played on a number of playoff teams, including the Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers. He averages 12.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for his career, and he posted career highs of 15.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 2014-15 in Denver.
But Chandler downplayed his expectations regarding his role coming into Brooklyn, and he certainly didn’t expect to be staring down the barrel at a significant one so soon. On the contrary, Chandler probably thought he would be the eighth or ninth guy in the rotation.
And his suspension probably effected his outlook pertaining to his role with the team. But then, no one foresaw all of the injuries the Nets have had. The most recent one, David Nwaba’s Achilles injury on Dec. 16, all but guaranteed that Chandler would have to step up.
When asked how he felt after watching another Nets wing go down with an injury, Chandler downplayed his part in the solution.
“With David (Nwaba) going down, and Shump (Iman Shumpert) came in and played. I don’t think my role is going to increase dramatically,” Chandler said.
“I think it’s going to be more pressure on guys like Spence (Dinwiddie). His role’s been big, but now it’s going to be even bigger,” Chandler continued. “Guys like me and other role guys just have to play our part and make it easier on him.”
But Atkinson reaffirmed this writer’s suspicions following a game on Dec. 21 – that Chandler is not your run of the mill role player.
“I think he’s going to have to carry a scoring burden,” Atkinson said about Chandler. “Of course playing defense and rebounding is his forte, but we’re going to need him to score maybe more than he has in the recent past on that second unit. He’s more than capable. He’s still trying to find his rhythm, but we’re going to need him down the line.”
So here we are – with Chandler still getting acclimated while being asked to play a major role. And he’s being asked to do so for a fairly prominent franchise that expects to advance beyond at least the first round of the playoffs.
He’s struggled so far, averaging only 5 points on 7.1 percent from three-point range and 4.6 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. But the rust was never going to shake off this quickly; Chandler and Atkinson have both since conceded that.
But at least Chandler maintained his conditioning – to such an extent that he was dubbed “Captain Cardio” by his teammates prior to his return – which allows him to play extended minutes and log more minutes more quickly than he would be able to otherwise. And knowing the veteran, he will be back to his old self sooner than later.
With 12 professional seasons under his belt — one of which was played in the Chinese Basketball Association for Zhejiang Guangsha — and having played for five different NBA franchises, Chandler’s views on the game have understandably changed over the years. But despite his veteran status, Chandler hasn’t given any thought to retirement just yet.
“I honestly have no idea (when I’ll retire). I just go with the flow – where my body takes me,” Chandler said with a grateful chuckle that subsided quickly as his train of thought shifted. “There’s also the part that, you know, a team has to want you.
“Last couple years, we’ve seen more veterans looking at not having jobs,” Chandler continued. “And that’s kind of scary, also. And it’s just a different game, a younger game.”
Pain management was a logical next step in our discussion given that we’d already covered training staffs and retirement.
“I haven’t heard anything on discussions about marijuana with the league (and the NBPA), but it’s only a matter of time,” Chandler said. “We can’t be the only league not allowing it. There’s so many benefits – not even necessarily smoking. It can be CBD gummies for pain. It’s so many things it can help with.
“It’s a matter of time,” Chandler said emphatically. “It’s the future. I mean, it gives us a choice other than alcohol or opioids and other things guys get addicted to. And CBD being banned is unfortunate. It’s might not be tested for specifically, but I think it flags the same as marijuana in a test. And there’s just so many false statements on marijuana and how it’s a gateway drug. I think alcohol and opioids are more of a gateway drug. Some people drink casually or socially and then you have alcoholics. You got people who can operate fine and some people can’t.”
Chandler is the consummate professional and he’ll eventually figure out his offensive struggles. But he’s more than just that.
He’s also patient and introspective, and he’ll set a great example for teammates. He’ll help bridge the gap for the Nets. But if he can hit his stride later this season and contribute at his normal level into next season when Irving, LeVert and Durant are all back, the Nets have another versatile wing in their arsenal, which can be even more dangerous than expected; Chandler is only signed through 2019-20.