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Tyson Chandler is already showing he’s exactly what the Lakers needed

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The veteran center may be close to his last legs, but he already looks rejuvenated having escaped Phoenix.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In Tyson Chandler’s first game after signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, he hit the game-winner to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves. Only, Chandler’s game-winner wasn’t a dunk. It wasn’t even a basket, or a play that resulted in one.

Instead, it was a typical moment the veteran big man has repeated time and time again across his career.

The Lakers held a one-point lead with just a minute remaining, but the Wolves had surged back thanks to an unconscious three-point shooting night from Derrick Rose. At that point, Rose was 7-of-8 from three and had scored Minnesota’s last nine points. If he got the ball back on the next possession, all the momentum in the world was in his favor.

But when LeBron James chucked up and clanked a three off the rim with around 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Chandler came to the rescue. He tapped the rebound into the back court, giving the Lakers a fresh 14 seconds on the shot clock.

James took time off the clock, then drove the lane to create an open look for Kyle Kuzma. When Kuzma missed his three, Chandler was too much of a handful for Rose and Andrew Wiggins to contain on the glass. They had two choices: allow him to grab the offensive rebound, or knock it away from him out of bounds.

They chose the latter. Lakers’ ball, with another fresh 14 seconds.

On Los Angeles’ final possession, James hoisted up and missed yet another three-pointer. But Chandler got away with mauling Karl-Anthony Towns, then tapped the ball back out to the three-point line for his teammates to recover.

Chandler created three additional possessions in the final minute of the game, turning a 24-second shot clock into almost 50 seconds. That left Minnesota just nine ticks when they should have had an entire possession, maybe two, to win the game.

Look at how pumped Chandler was to secure a win for his team. This is a man who knows his value, and he doesn’t need to score to validate it.

This is exactly what the doctor ordered

JaVale McGee has been outstanding early in the season, but the Lakers didn’t have another legitimate center on the roster after him. We’d see Los Angeles run small lineups with James at the center. That’s not where you want James, even if he has the size, strength, speed, and athleticism to play any position on the floor.

That’s no longer necessary now that Chandler is around. In addition to allowing the Lakers to play 48 minutes with a big man on the floor, Chandler also provides several intangibles.

  • In landing Chandler, Los Angeles gets a culture-setter that was being wasted on a woeful Suns team. You’re not going to be on the floor loafing on defense if this guy’s around.
  • Los Angeles is getting a rebounding machine. Chandler grabbed nine rebounds in 23 minutes against the Timberwolves, and five of them came on the offensive glass.
  • Of course, the Lakers are also getting a rim protector. One of their biggest needs early into the season had been interior defense — Los Angeles is second to only Phoenix in opponent points in the paint per game. That projects to change with a motivated Chandler patrolling the middle.
  • And Los Angeles is getting one of the best low-post defenders available in the league. Back-to-the-basket scorers have become somewhat of a pariah, but Chandler’s presence neutralized Towns on the block, and his gifts will be helpful against Western Conference foes like Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, LaMarcus Aldridge, Clint Capela, and DeMarcus Cousins (when he returns).
  • Chandler is also another veteran, adding to James and Rajon Rondo as the elder statesmen in this young Lakers’ locker room. He’s a different voice for those young guys, too.
  • And of course, he’s a champion. Chandler was integral in Mavericks’ 2011 title run. He helped beat James’ Miami Heat, and defeating James in any setting is no easy task.

The Lakers still have other problems to sort out. They could use more offensive production out of the point guard slot, and Luke Walton’s player rotations can be more consistent. But Chandler projects to help Los Angeles in their two biggest weaknesses: defense and rebounding.

He was a great pickup by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.