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Wilson Chandler ready to help Clippers’ pursuit of playoffs

Wilson Chandler, Clippers

LOS ANGELES – The L.A. Clippers are now a few weeks into their new-look roster following the blockbuster trade that brought Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, and Mike Muscala (rerouted to the Lakers) to Los Angeles. In exchange, they sent Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott to the Philadelphia 76ers. The move was a clear sign that the Clippers are serious about building a sustainable, long-term championship contender.

The moves made at the trade deadline, however, also signified a team that was going to continue fighting for the playoffs this season. One of the important pieces they acquired in Chandler has been out since February 2nd, when he was still a member of the Sixers. The time off has allowed him to see where he can help his new team as soon as he’s healthy enough to return.

“I think I’ll be helpful on defense,” said Chandler right away on where he fits on this team. “I think that’s probably the biggest area, just bringing a little grit. That’s probably the biggest area I’ll help the most.”

Chandler spent a half-season in Philly playing for the Sixers, averaging 6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists on a Sixers team that fed the ball to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, and J.J. Redick. He struggled with minor injuries at different points this year as well, but was huge when they needed him most. Most recently, he came away with a game-saving block on Spurs’ guard DeMar DeRozan that helped the Sixers to a win (and, ironically, got his now-Clippers team closer to the Spurs in the West standings).

While that Sixers team was top heavy following the trade for Butler, Chandler joins a group with no clear-cut go-to scoring options outside of Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams. Even then, the Clippers have a slew of different guys who, on a nightly basis, could put up 20 points as a starter or reserve.

The last team in recent memory with this much talent top to bottom without a notable superstar is probably the Denver Nuggets from the 2012-13 season. That team featured Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Kenneth Faried, Andre Miller, JaVale McGee, Chandler, and Gallinari, as well as current Clippers assistant coach John Welch, who was also a part of George Karl’s staff.

“I was talking to John Welch, who coached me in Denver, and we were talking about how this team kind of reminds me of the team we had in Denver a few years ago when we won 57 games,” said Chandler. “We’ve just got a bunch of guys that can score. Lou can score, Gallo can score, and we’ve got a bunch of guys who love playing together and sharing the ball. They play hard, so just from that standpoint, it’s fun. Doc kind of lets those guys be themselves and just play.”

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Sometimes the biggest part of a trade is forgetting that players spend a lot of time building relationships with teams as well as their current cities. Having to drop everything and move their families to new locations and begin working immediately can be a difficult task for many, but Chandler understands the great opportunity he’s been given to thrive.

“I got somewhere, I was traded there this summer so to get traded midway through the season can be kind of frustrating, but you look at the positives: you come to L.A., I’m playing for Doc Rivers and the Clippers. You look at it, and it’s still a good place to land.”

Through the All-Star break, the Clippers have a 32-27 record through 59 games played. They also have a legitimate chance of making the playoff as they have a three-game lead over the Lakers and a one game lead over the Kings. According to Tankathon’ s remaining strength of schedule, they have the 7th easiest remaining schedule ahead of both the Kings (9th easiest) and the Lakers (9th hardest).

“It’s definitely crucial right now,” added Chandler on the importance of every game down the stretch with a newer, younger team. “With the games we have left, every game is crucial. [Every game is] a big game. As far as being young, I’m a big fan of Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander], I’ve played with Landry [Shamet], those two guys aren’t afraid of the moment at all. I think having guys like Lou, Gallo, [Garrett] Temple, Pat [Beverley], all those guys, that’ll help a lot. Those guys are the tough ones.”

Chandler has yet to play in February as he recovers from a right quad strain, but has a good chance to play in the team’s first game following the break against the Memphis Grizzlies. Speaking with him before the break, Chandler was optimistic he’d be able to practice Thursday, and if all goes well, he’ll be cleared to play Friday night.