Tyson Chandler and the acceptance of limitations

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New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler is talented, but he’s also ridiculously limited in terms of what he can actually do on a basketball court.

Chandler is a true 7-footer with a strong build, but he possesses no post game whatsoever. There are no jump hooks, no drop steps, no up-and-under moves — nothing. In 17 games this season, according to Synergy Sports, he has attempted one field goal in a post up situation. One. And there was five seconds left on the shot clock, so it was almost like he was forced into shooting it. He made it, in case you were curious.

Here’s my point. Do you know how many jumpers Tyson Chandler attempted in 2011 from 10-15 feet? Zero. Go ahead, try to picture Chandler’s jumper in your head. You can’t do it. Does he even jump? What’s his form look like? Think about how strange that is — Chandler has been in the league 11 years, and when you try to remember a single image of him taking a jumper, you can’t.

What’s even more odd? Chandler, the same guy who can’t shoot and can’t score on the block, is one of the most efficient scorers in NBA history. How is this possible?

True Shooting Percentage is a weighted efficiency stat that adjusts for 3-pointers and free throws, and in 2011, Chandler beat out every NBA player ever and posted the highest number in history with a 70.8 percent mark. Last year’s campaign was truly the most impressive exercise of scoring efficiency ever.

Until this year, that is. Through 17 games, Chandler’s True Shooting Percentage has somehow jumped up to 75.3 percent — an astronomical number that no player has ever approaches. It’s even more impressive that he’s actually scoring more than he ever has with 15.1 points per 36 minutes. When the attempts go up, the efficiency usually goes down. But not with Chandler.

How can a relatively unskilled basketball player be so good offensively? It’s a decision. Chandler works his tail off, of course, but his offensive prowess has more to do with his conscious effort to only do a certain number of things on the court and not dabble in much else. Roll to the rim. Hit the offensive glass. Seal off a defender. Chandler never steps outside these seemingly menial tasks, but he’s perfected the arts others take for granted. Chandler is completely aware of his immense limitations, and he’s accepted them.

That acceptance of limitations is a skill in its own right — one that few players actually possess. To be in the NBA, an absurd amount of confidence is almost requisite. There’s no room for hesitation or doubt or believing you can’t do something. It’s why Jordan Crawford thinks he can be the next Michael Jordan. It’s why Raymond Felton thinks he can drop 50 at anytime even though he’s never, ya know, actually done it. Self-delusion is necessary for survival in the most competitive basketball league in the world.

And really, Chandler’s ability to stray away from that path and develop at his own rate and be realistic with himself is what makes him the incredible player he is. He’s the perfect teammate — he doesn’t need the ball, he covers your back defensively, and he never mails it in from an effort standpoint. He’s a rock. On a Knicks team filled with guys brimming with confidence, always pushing the limits as to what they can do on the court, Chandler is a grounding influence. While Jason Kidd threads the impossible needle, or Carmelo Anthony takes a 24-foot feat check, or J.R. Smith does J.R. Smith things, Chandler is always there, doing the same things he always does, silently getting better and better.

It makes sense that Chandler is highly regarded for the defensive miracles  he’s performed (the Knicks were a top 5 team in defensive efficiency last year), but he’s also an offensive force who very rarely makes mistakes. He never takes a bad shot, he only turns the ball over once a game, and he grabs about four offensive rebounds per contest. Basically, Chandler creates extra possessions for his team by the handful, and never throws away the ones the Knicks already have.

You see, Chandler is much more than just the Knicks’ defensive anchor. He’s their most efficient scorer. He’s their heart and soul. And for a franchise that’s lacked one over the years, he’s their conscience.

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.