Critiques that the Los Angeles Lakers would be hurt by an overall lack of size rung true through the first 10 games of the season as they struggled to defend the paint and rebound. JaVale McGee, playing a career high in minutes, was proving to be the lone exception.
While the focal point of a meeting between Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and head coach Luke Walton was to address the team’s lack of an offensive identity, it later surfaced that Walton asked the front office for reinforcements in the frontcourt.
Days later, the Lakers signed Tyson Chandler after he secured a buyout from the Phoenix Suns and cleared waivers. Chandler is in the final year of a four-year, $52 million contract he signed with the Suns.
Considering the direction of the franchise and Chandler’s age, a buyout seemed likely if not inevitable. However, such agreements typically don’t take place until later into a season.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, there’s a belief the friendship between Suns interim general manager James Jones and LeBron James influenced Chandler being released at this point:
There’s one working theory of why the Suns granted Chandler the buyout now instead of in February or March when the traditional wave of buyouts occur: Phoenix interim GM James Jones was a longtime teammate of LeBron’s in Miami and Cleveland.
“James did LeBron a solid,” a league source told ESPN.
James and Jones first became teammates on the Miami Heat for the 2010-11 NBA season. That marked the start of seven years together, which also stretched to the Cleveland Cavaliers for three seasons.
However Chandler may have fallen into their laps, the Lakers already benefitted after just one game. He was key to slowing Karl-Anthony Towns in the second half and had multiple tap outs to give the Lakers key offensive rebounds in their 114-110 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.