Wilson Chandler Struggles to Re-Adjust to NBA
The bad news: Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari fractured his thumb. The good news: Wilson Chandler, easily one of the best players on a very good 2010-11 Denver team, was on his way back from a hiatus in China just in time to step in and keep the team’s momentum going.
Unfortunately for both Chandler and the Nuggets, the player’s re-acclamation to American basketball has taken a little longer than many would’ve hoped, but that’s not to say he won’t get there. It’s just not as easy to step back into the NBA as people think.
“I feel excited, but my body is not too excited about it,” Chandler told HOOPSWORLD. “Personally, it’s been tough for me just getting back in the mix of things, getting my conditioning back up… I’m just trying to get a rhythm back.”
That rhythm definitely isn’t there yet after playing only five games (four of them starts) since returning from a season with the Zhejiang Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association. He’s averaging only 11.2 points with Denver so far, his lowest average since his rookie season in New York, and he’s shooting just a shade under 40 percent from the field.
Despite the slow start, there’s no denying his 5-year, $37 million contract is a great deal for the Nuggets, and Chandler admitted that even through his time in the CBA, the plan was to come back and play his home games in Colorado.
“[The Nuggets] always said they wanted me, so I believed in them and they kept their word,” Chandler said. “I’m really happy to be back here.”
And he’s not kidding when he says that. As any person who’s ever worked overseas can attest, adapting to a new culture can be very daunting.
“It was tough, but like any other foreign country it’s going to be tough,” Chandler admitted. “It’s not home. It’s like going to college for the first time. You’re away from everybody, your friends and family, so you’ve got to adjust.”
But even though China wasn’t necessarily a perfectly wonderful experience for him, his year overseas did improve his outlook on playing ball in the States quite a bit.
“I just learned to appreciate things—the stuff you get over here on and off the court, with the refs, traveling, hotels, arenas, food,” he said. “From the biggest thing to the smallest thing, you appreciate it all.”
Despite all the challenges and frustrations, though, Chandler doesn’t have any regrets about the experience,
“I’m pretty happy with my decision,” he said. “I didn’t know that the NBA was going to start back up, so it could have went either way.”
It is easy in retrospect to say that Chandler would’ve been better off waiting out the lockout, but nobody had any way of knowing how that would’ve worked out at the time. If the season were lost, he’d look like a genius right now.
But the season wasn’t lost, and the Denver Nuggets have to figure out how to start playing more consistent basketball after a very up-and-down month of March. Chandler can be a big part of the solution there, and the good news is that he won’t stay rusty forever. It will come back, and when it does, the bad news will be for the teams that have to play against him.