NEW ORLEANS (AP) -The mystery of Tyson Chandler's failed physical grows with every two-handed alley-oop dunk, blocked shot and Hornets victory.
New Orleans coach Byron Scott can only chuckle and crack jokes as he tries to explain how the 7-foot-1 center could start playing his best basketball of the season only days after Oklahoma City Thunder officials decided Chandler was unfit to join their club and backed out a trade they made to get him.
``It's hard for us to figure out,'' Scott said. ``I think the biggest thing we should do ... is get thank you cards and send them back to (Thunder team physician) Dr. (Carlan) Yates in Oklahoma City and just tell him, 'Thank you very much.'''
Scott can thank the Thunder in person Saturday night, when the Hornest host Oklahoma City.
lem with Chandler's ankle, but worried that a past turf-toe condition could resurface.
Time will tell if that fear is ever realized, but for now, the Hornets are riding a season-high six-game winning streak that began when Chandler returned to the Hornets' lineup Feb. 23 with a 15-point, 10-rebound performance at Sacramento.
``They were saying this team wasn't good enough to make it, and they were saying that I wasn't good enough and I was one of the pieces that needed to be moved,'' Chandler said, as he reflected on the botched trade. ``I don't believe that.''
After getting a rousing welcome home from the New Orleans Arena crowd on Feb. 25, Chandler grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds in a victory over Detroit. Next game, his tip-in in the final seconds lifted the Hornets to victory over Milwaukee. Despite his minutes being limited by foul trouble, he had 10 points and 11 rebounds in Thursday night's 104-88 win over Dallas.
``Tyson has been big for them,'' Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki said. ``He's long, he keeps possessions alive offensively and they missed him, I think. So for him to be back, they look almost like last year.''
Last season, the Hornets surprised the NBA by winning a franchise-record 56 regular season games and securing the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
to Chandler and others could be partly responsible. Peja Stojakovic's back has been bothering him, Chris Paul missed a handful of games with a groin pull and David West also missed a couple games with back pain.
Yet, even when Chandler played during the first half of the season, his numbers were down. Before the trade, he was averaging 8.8 points and 8.3 rebounds, down from 11.8 points and 11.8 rebounds a season earlier.
With Chandler due to make about $12 million next season and the Hornets in danger of being over the salary cap, there were financial incentives to move him. General manager Jeff Bower insisted, however, that the reason for the trade was because the team was last in the league in rebounding and needed to do something to get better.
``We thought we needed a change, and since then we've seen a change,'' Bower said.
The transformation did not occur as designed, but that doesn't mean the trade was a mistake, Bower said.
``The reason we made the trade was because there was a need for this team to perform better,'' Bower said. ``They were all being held accountable - the entire team - and I think they understood that. They want more. They expect more of themselves as well. Our job is to help them get what they want, and if you can point that out to them sometimes, no matter how unpleasant it may be, that's what your job is.''
ter. Chandler, an outgoing Californian who's been at the forefront of the team's efforts to help with recovery from Hurricane Katrina, was among the most popular members of the squad with both teammates and fans.
``I would imagine people come to see him play more than they would a guy like me,'' Hornets All-Star forward David West said. ``People come to see him dunk the basketball, throw (opponents') shots into the second row.
``Obviously, because of his ties to the community and the type of person he is, I think it was hard for people to understand what perspective the team was coming from'' with the trade.
As Chandler was packing up his New Orleans home shortly after the trade, families were stopping by to wish him and his wife well, he recalled. They were ``saying how upset they were and sad to see us go, and how much they respected us as a family as well as me as a basketball player. And that meant a lot to me.''
When he was sent back to the Big Easy, he said, the first thoughts were of the fans who'd lamented his departure days earlier.
``It gives you a kind of understanding and a sense of what you actually mean to the city, not just the franchise,'' Chandler said. ``When you get that kind of love, I told myself, there's no way I cannot give these people 100 percent night in and night out.''
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