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What's the Matter with Chandler?

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jan 17, 2006 10:02PM

2006_01_sports_chandler.jpgBack in the summer of 2001, coming off a miserable 15-67 season, it looked like the Bulls we set for the future after drafting Eddy Curry with the 4th pick and trading Elton Brand for the rights to 2nd pick Tyson Chandler. Both were 7 footers jumping straight from high school to the NBA. Bulls GM Jerry Krause drooled at the potential his young Twin Towers possessed.

Jump to 2005 and it's become very clear that plan failed. Eddy Curry now plays for the NY Knicks. He forced a trade when the Bulls management and Curry couldn't overcome their differences of opinion about Curry's irregular heartbeat. They wanted to sign him to a one year deal while continuing to evaluate his health. He wanted the big multi-year contract high draft picks believe they are entitled to. In return for him, the Bulls received Tim Thomas, Michael Sweetney and Jermaine Jackson. Only Sweetney's even still with the team 3 months later.

Meanwhile, the Bulls chose to give Chandler the big contract he was "entitled" to. They locked him up for another 6 years at a total of $63 million guaranteed.

In return for that huge payday, Chandler's currently averaging 4.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. Those are journeyman stats -- not exactly the stats GM John Paxon expected when giving Chandler an 8-figure annual salary.

Sure, Chandler's had his share of health issues such as a hiatal hernia, exercise-induced asthma and a sprained ankle. And that's just this season! His missed much of the 2003-2004 season because of a bad back. And those have a tendancy to become re-aggrivated...

Part of Chandler's problem was his lack of off-season conditioning. While many free agent players take it easy during the summer for fear of injury, Chandler's lax summer also contributes to his fatigue during games. That fatigue has lead to too many fouls and too much time on the bench -- whether because he needs a rest or because of foul trouble.

Chandler insists this is the low point, "I'm going to have another great game, and everything is going to be, 'How did you turn it around? The thing is to keep at it, and it's going to come." He'd better have that turnaround game soon!

Without a stong presence by any big man on the Bulls roster, they've been killed inside. Sure, their rebounding stats are similar to their opponents. But that's not the whole story down low. They've been losing too many close games and many of those come down to the free throw differential. Not only are the Bulls committing too many fouls, they're also sending their oppoents to the line an average of 7.5 times more per game than they get. Given the league-wide free throw average, that's about 5 points a game. The Bulls have lost 11 of their last 14 games, and in nearly every one of those losses the difference in free throws made is greater than the margin of victory for their opponent!

But the Bulls aren't driving. The Bulls don't have a post player to feed the ball to. So the Bulls aren't getting the easy points at the line. And they're not winning very many games right now.

The Bulls told Chandler they didn't expect him to be a big scorer. And with his free throw shooting (38%), it's a good thing they don't expect him to score down low. But with no legit scoring threat down low, the Bulls are fighting an uphill battle to win, even when shooting better than their opponents. If Chandler's not the answer, then the Bulls need to trade for some help. Fast!