This is the time of year, when the NBA game, takes a major backseat to the monster we call March Madness. Pro names like Kobe, LeBron, Wade and Carmelo get replaced by college names like Mahan, Wall, Farokhmanesh and Lucious. Instead of just paying attention to coaches like Larry Brown of the Charlotte Bobcats and Scott Brooks from the Oklahoma City Thunder, we find ourselves wanting to hear what Kansas State’s Frank Martin and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim have to say about their respective teams. Its not that we’ve given up on the pro game, its just we mentally put it on hold until that Monday night NCAA Championship game.
But last weekend while I watched copious amounts of college basketball, I found myself wondering what goes through the mind of players, who skipped college and never got to play in March Madess. I wondered if they had any regrets this time of year, and if they secretly wished they could delve into that experience just once. Then my thought process led me to think about the overall adjustment young players make when they enter the NBA, and how difficult it must be when most of their peers are in the college game.
So with the Charlotte Bobcats coming in town, I thought the perfect person to ask these questions to would be Tyson Chandler. After a storied high school career, Chandler eschewed college, and chose to head straight for the NBA, where he was the Bulls number two overall pick in 2001. He has not dominated in the way you’d expect a number two draft pick to do (career averages of 8.1 points and 8,8 rebounds), but still he has had a decent career.
Before his Charlotte Bobcats took on the Washington Wizards, I asked Chandler if he regretted not being a part of March Madness and the NCAA overall, I asked him about the adjustments he made going from high school to the NBA, and we discussed the effect of new owner, Michael Jordan, on the team.
Rashad Mobley: During this time of year, is there any part of you that wishes you had gone to college, if for no other reason, than to have the March Madness experience?
Tyson Chandler: Nah, not at all. The stars didn’t align for me like that, and to be honest, I rarely think about it. Now maybe a little earlier in my career, when I had friends and people I played high school ball with in college. But to be totally honest with you man, I don’t even know who is in college anymore. I’m just totally disconnected from college ball.
RM: And how were you so sure that going straight to the NBA was indeed the right path? What was your thought process?
TC: You know I thought about college, but I also thought about my future and what was really best for me and my family. I felt like coming into the NBA would be the best situation for me to learn from the best players in the world, all while getting paid, you know? I think it has worked out pretty well so far
RM: Besides not being able to go straight from high school to the NBA anymore, do you think the climate is different now 10 years later, for younger kids entering the NBA?
TC: Well, I think any time you come into the league, you’re a boy coming into a man’s sport and a man’s game. You definitely have some adjustments that need to be made because while its fun and all that, this is also the way grown men feed their families. So you definitely have to make mental and physical adjustments to this game, and that was the case when I came into the league, and its the case today in 2010.
RM: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make?
TC: I think the major adjustment was the level of competition. In high school, you have one or two really good players who could play in college and maybe the NBA, and the rest are just role players. When I jumped to the NBA, everyone was good, everyone could dominate, and even the role players could make you look bad on a given night. So I had to play hard and be mentally prepared every night for every game, and for a much longer period of time. That was definitely tough for me to sustain. Then you throw in the travel, locker room chemistry, money issues and it can make your head spin if you ain’t careful. Plus, once you become a professional athlete, there are definitely some things that change and you gotta understand how to cope with that on and off the court. So it took me awhile, plus I had high expectations being the number two draft pick. It was a lot, man.
RM: I know you’ve had foot and ankle injuries that have kind of held you back this year, but are you feeling a bit more comfortable with this team?
TC: Definitely. I feel a lot better now that I can finally get out there on the court. It was definitely tough because I struggled to battle through injuries and surgeries, and not being in the lineup is frustrating, especially when you see the team needs an energy boost on certain nights–that’s my specialty you know? But now that I’m healthy, life is a lot easier and I can kind put my stamp on this team as we hopefully move towards the playoffs.
RM: I know to outsiders its a big deal, but for the players in the locker room, is it a big deal that Michael Jordan is now the owner of the franchise?
TC: Hell yeah its a definite plus. Look man, when you’re sitting on the sidelines or even while you’re in the game, and you look over and see the greatest player to ever play clapping his hands and encouraging you, that’s a pretty big deal. Then he gives us pointers, tips and suggestions on how to improve our game. So all of that, plus his presence, can’t do nothing but help us on a nightly basis
RM: So is there more pressure?
TC (laughing): Let’s not call it pressure, let’s call it motivation.