Colangelo: Tyson Chandler 'Not in Shape' but Still in Mix for Team USA
Then again, when you're a 7-foot-1 shot blocker and big men on your team are disappearing faster than money in local slot machines, it doesn't hurt you as much.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo is aware of what's befallen center Tyson Chandler, who has battled ankle problems the past two seasons. But Colangelo, as Team USA prepares for next month's World Championship in Turkey, is willing to look past much of that because Chandler is the tallest player in training camp here and provides a much-needed skill.
"He's not in shape, it appears now,'' Colangelo said on Wednesday's second day of camp about Chandler, traded last week from Charlotte to Dallas. "And it's been a while since he's really competed because of his injuries. ... (Chandler needs) to get himself in real shape. His opportunity is enhanced (to make the team) because of what he does. If he's on, he can block shots.''
With five big men (LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Jefferson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Robin Lopez and David Lee) having dropped out in the past week, Team USA is down to six post men of the 19 players in camp. But 6-10 Kevin Love, 6-10 Lamar Odom and 6-9 Jeff Green aren't shot-blocking centers.
Colangelo said at least one of the three centers in camp -- Chandler, New Jersey's 7-foot Brook Lopez and Washington's 7-foot JaVale McGee -- is assured of making the team. It's not out of the question two will.
"Lopez and Chandler and McGee, somebody has to come out of that,'' said Colangelo, who said there are no current plans to invite any other big men to camp despite all the defections. "You want a shot blocker in the international game because the ball is alive on the rim and you can swat it around a little bit. Chandler, that's one thing he can do.''
Projected over a 36-minute average, Brook Lopez (1.9) and Chandler (1.8) have similar NBA career blocked-shot averages. McGee's is a whopping 3.0, but the 22-year-old is still very raw, making him a long shot to make the team.
While with New Orleans, Chandler missed 31 of the last 44 regular-season games and one of five playoff games in 2008-09 due to left ankle problems. After undergoing surgery last summer and being traded to Charlotte, Chandler played in just 51 games last season. But he says he now feels the best he has in a while.
"I'm really good,'' said Chandler, sporting a full beard in camp that gives him a Grizzly Adams look. "I've been training since two weeks out of the season, and I've been progressing and going forward. I feel obviously better than at any point during (last) season. I feel the best that I have in a while.''
In addition to shot blocking, Colangelo also singled out shooting as a specialty Team USA needs. He said guard Stephen Curry "may be our best shooter,'' which certainly helps his once-darkhorse chances to make the team.
Overall, Colangelo said it will be while before the team comes together. Colangelo said it will be as if "training camp is going to go right through the first game in Turkey,'' and that Chandler has a while to get into better shape.
But the first game is Aug. 28. If Chandler is still around then, he will have made the team since the final roster must be turned in Aug. 26.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson