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Tyson Chandler and the acceptance of limitations

Dec 6, 2012, 5:44 PM EST

New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler reacts after drawing a foul and scoring a basket against the Dallas Mavericks during their NBA basketball game in Dallas, Texas Reuters

New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler is talented, but he’s also ridiculously limited in terms of what he can actually do on a basketball court.

Chandler is a true 7-footer with a strong build, but he possesses no post game whatsoever. There are no jump hooks, no drop steps, no up-and-under moves — nothing. In 17 games this season, according to Synergy Sports, he has attempted one field goal in a post up situation. One. And there was five seconds left on the shot clock, so it was almost like he was forced into shooting it. He made it, in case you were curious.

Here’s my point. Do you know how many jumpers Tyson Chandler attempted in 2011 from 10-15 feet? Zero. Go ahead, try to picture Chandler’s jumper in your head. You can’t do it. Does he even jump? What’s his form look like? Think about how strange that is — Chandler has been in the league 11 years, and when you try to remember a single image of him taking a jumper, you can’t.

What’s even more odd? Chandler, the same guy who can’t shoot and can’t score on the block, is one of the most efficient scorers in NBA history. How is this possible?

True Shooting Percentage is a weighted efficiency stat that adjusts for 3-pointers and free throws, and in 2011, Chandler beat out every NBA player ever and posted the highest number in history with a 70.8 percent mark. Last year’s campaign was truly the most impressive exercise of scoring efficiency ever.

Until this year, that is. Through 17 games, Chandler’s True Shooting Percentage has somehow jumped up to 75.3 percent — an astronomical number that no player has ever approaches. It’s even more impressive that he’s actually scoring more than he ever has with 15.1 points per 36 minutes. When the attempts go up, the efficiency usually goes down. But not with Chandler.

How can a relatively unskilled basketball player be so good offensively? It’s a decision. Chandler works his tail off, of course, but his offensive prowess has more to do with his conscious effort to only do a certain number of things on the court and not dabble in much else. Roll to the rim. Hit the offensive glass. Seal off a defender. Chandler never steps outside these seemingly menial tasks, but he’s perfected the arts others take for granted. Chandler is completely aware of his immense limitations, and he’s accepted them.

That acceptance of limitations is a skill in its own right — one that few players actually possess. To be in the NBA, an absurd amount of confidence is almost requisite. There’s no room for hesitation or doubt or believing you can’t do something. It’s why Jordan Crawford thinks he can be the next Michael Jordan. It’s why Raymond Felton thinks he can drop 50 at anytime even though he’s never, ya know, actually done it. Self-delusion is necessary for survival in the most competitive basketball league in the world.

And really, Chandler’s ability to stray away from that path and develop at his own rate and be realistic with himself is what makes him the incredible player he is. He’s the perfect teammate — he doesn’t need the ball, he covers your back defensively, and he never mails it in from an effort standpoint. He’s a rock. On a Knicks team filled with guys brimming with confidence, always pushing the limits as to what they can do on the court, Chandler is a grounding influence. While Jason Kidd threads the impossible needle, or Carmelo Anthony takes a 24-foot feat check, or J.R. Smith does J.R. Smith things, Chandler is always there, doing the same things he always does, silently getting better and better.

It makes sense that Chandler is highly regarded for the defensive miracles  he’s performed (the Knicks were a top 5 team in defensive efficiency last year), but he’s also an offensive force who very rarely makes mistakes. He never takes a bad shot, he only turns the ball over once a game, and he grabs about four offensive rebounds per contest. Basically, Chandler creates extra possessions for his team by the handful, and never throws away the ones the Knicks already have.

You see, Chandler is much more than just the Knicks’ defensive anchor. He’s their most efficient scorer. He’s their heart and soul. And for a franchise that’s lacked one over the years, he’s their conscience.

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