PHOENIX (AP) — Tyson Chandler is coming to Phoenix, aiming to toughen up the Suns’ interior and be the experienced leader the young team sorely needs.
The 32-year-old Chandler, a 14-year NBA veteran, signed a four-year, $52 million contract on Thursday.
“I think we’ve just increased our character, our leadership, our professionalism by leaps and bounds,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said.
The 7-foot-1, 240-pound center played last season with the Dallas Mavericks after three years with the New York Knicks. He was part of the Mavericks’ 2011 NBA championship team and the U.S. squad that won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Last season, Chandler averaged 10.3 points on 67 percent shooting and 11.5 rebounds.
He said he was sold after his first meeting with the Suns.
“When you get to my position, you kind of look ‘Where can I fit and where can I really help?'” he said. “I saw a lot of potential there and a great place to come in and kind of make my mark.”
He said the city and the team’s highly regarded training staff were important factors.
Chandler agreed to a deal with Phoenix early in the free agency period, he said, “because I wanted other guys to see how committed the Suns were and have the opportunity to bring guys in.”
The big target, of course, was LaMarcus Aldridge, and Chandler reportedly was part of the Suns contingent that made their pitch to the free agent forward. By all accounts, Phoenix finished a close second to the San Antonio Spurs in the Aldridge sweepstakes.
But Chandler said “there wasn’t much disappointment.”
“When I made my decision I made my decision solely on myself,” he said, “and looking at the roster and seeing what I can do for this team and this organization.”
Chandler said the Suns have “a lot of young talent.”
He specifically mentioned mentoring center Alex Len, whose playing time surely will diminish.
“I think he’s an incredible young player,” Chandler said. “We’ll have a good future together and he has a lot of potential. I think the combination of the two of us will bring a lot of size in the West, which is really needed.”
The Suns have not made the playoffs the last five seasons. After winning 48 games in 2013-14, they dipped to 39-43 last season.
Chandler is a three-time all-NBA defensive team selection and was Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.
“Tyson’s done it on a high level his whole career,'” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s been the defensive anchor on all these teams he’s played on, won the championship. He knows how to play the game. He knows how to protect his teammates, he knows how to talk. Our biggest problem last year is we didn’t have any guys who talk.”
The Los Angeles Clippers made Chandler the second overall pick in the 2001 draft, directly out of Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif.
In addition to the Mavericks and Knicks, he has played for Chicago, New Orleans and Charlotte.
Chandler said he will emphasize to his young teammates the attention to detail.
“The thing about winning is it’s a full-time job,” Chandler said. “It’s not just on game days. The preparation has to start every day in practice. We have to be locked in, we have to be serious, really paying attention to details. It’s just kind of getting that focus in the locker room, making sure everybody’s engaged and everybody’s locked in, because it’s never going to be one player that’s going to make a team win.”
And if players aren’t working or behaving properly, Chandler said he would step in.
“I think guys know that I’m going to be honest with them and with myself,” he said. “I feel like if you want to be a winning team or winning organization, you have to build that culture. As athletes, a lot of times you get into a situation where you’re going to hear what you want to hear and never what you need to hear.”
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