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Target on Tyson

Hornets playoff hopes could rest with ex-Bulls center

Posted: Monday September 25, 2006 5:17PM; Updated: Monday October 2, 2006 9:19AM
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If Tyson Chandler steps up in his new surroundings, the Hornets might make some noise in the tough Southwest division.
If Tyson Chandler steps up in his new surroundings, the Hornets might make some noise in the tough Southwest division.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

You'd be forgiven for taking issue with the moves the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets put together this offseason. The momentum behind last season's surprising 20-game improvement was seemingly halted by a pair of transactions that register more in the bluster scale than the basketball court.

Adding 29-year old Peja Stojakovic (coming off a pair of sub-par seasons), and Tyson Chandler (a center his former team seemed desperate to part with) appear to saddle the Hornets with two players trying to find themselves ... with each making eight figures a year. Not a good combination.

But it depends on how you look at it. In Peja, the Hornets may have the perfect perimeter counterpart for the sublime talents of last year's Rookie of the Year, Chris Paul. And in Chandler, the Hornets might have the player who puts them over the hump and into the playoffs after a two-year absence.

Plus, the cap situation isn't as dire as you might assume in light of two potentially cap-clogging transactions.

In spite of Paul's presence, the Hornets' playoff chances probably begin and end with Chandler. The 7-foot center has done it before; he was easily the most important player on a 2004-05 Chicago Bulls team that won 47 games, as his ability to overplay shooters while dashing back towards the front of the rim for a rebound gave that young team a dominant presence in fourth quarters.

Last summer while waiting for a contract extension from Chicago, Chandler admittedly took things easy. The result was a pitiful season that nearly cost Chicago a return trip to the playoffs.

Chandler was out of shape for the first half of the season, and out of sorts for the duration of the campaign. Spending a summer off the court, his stamina and court awareness was affected, and he averaged a foul for every seven minutes he played. His rebounding suffered, his block totals dipped, and his offense was among the league's worst.

Not only did Tyson average a pitiful 5.3 points in 26.8 minutes per game, he was an outright liability with the ball in his hands. Tyson turned the rock over on 21.5 percent of the possessions he participated in (the second-worst mark in the league, behind Michael Ruffin), forcing the Bulls to devise ways of scoring while essentially playing four-on-five basketball.

And yet, Chandler hung in there. Though frustrated by his inability to put it all together, he still managed to play an instrumental part in Chicago's late-season run to the postseason. All that momentum was destroyed, however, by a frustrating first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat -- one that saw Chandler average just 1.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and produce just two blocks in 104 minutes.