Things have not been easy for Wilson Chandler in Philadelphia, but it looks like that might be changing.
After joining the 76ers this offseason, Chandler was sidelined with a hamstring injury before the 2018-19 campaign even started. From there, it was one thing after another. A quad injury set him back, then an upper respiratory infection that worked its way through the team kept him out for an additional two games.
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It was hard for Chandler to feel like himself. Coming off the preseason hamstring injury, he said it would take a while for him to play himself back into shape and get his wind back. But the quad injury and illness made conditioning a difficult task.
“Body is starting to heal up,” he said Saturday. “I hadn’t been 100 percent since I’ve been here so this is the first time my body feels good.”
Finally feeling healthy, Chandler said, is the reason he’s been more effective on the defensive end.
Even though the Sixers suffered a tough 117-115 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, Chandler played an important role in keeping his team in the game. He was often tasked with defending Paul George, who is having one of the best seasons of his career. Chandler made George work for everything and was essential on helping defensively on the Thunder’s bigs while forcing turnovers.
Those type of plays have been coming at a higher rate for Chandler over the last handful of games. Most notably Chandler’s transition defense, willingness to dive for loose balls or bat them out for second-chance opportunities, and his defensive awareness away from the ball have all been areas where he has started to make a mark with the Sixers defense, which is the reason he was so appealing in the offseason.
He isn’t the kind of player that is going to stuff a box score and often what he does won’t show up on a stat sheet, but he makes hustle plays that are integral to the game, and his quiet improvement couldn’t come at a better time for the Sixers.
In the midst of the toughest stretch of the Sixers’ schedule and with the playoffs on the horizon, the team is going to need everything from each one of its players. As his performance on the defensive end starts to improve, Chandler has also noticed a change on the offensive end.
Recently, Brett Brown has done some more tinkering with his lineups, pairing Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler together more than he has in the past, and using Jonah Bolden more in reserve minutes behind Embiid. Brown said using Embiid and Butler together is something he has wanted to do and is something that can be expected in the postseason.
The lineup shifts have meant that Chandler slides over to the three position, another move that Brown said has been on his mind.
Chandler is more familiar with playing at the small forward spot at the wing rather than a stretch-four and said his health, along with getting more minutes at the three, could be the reason he’s starting to feel comfortable.
“Maybe it’s been more time at the three,” he said. “It feels like the ball is swinging more to me and that I’m getting more opportunity to create.”