OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—The Oklahoma City Thunder rescinded their trade with the New Orleans, sending center Tyson Chandler back to the Hornets.
Chandler failed a physical Wednesday, and the Thunder backed out of the deal that sent Chris Wilcox, Joe Smith and second-round pick DeVon Hardin to New Orleans.
No specific reason was given as to why Chandler didn’t pass the physical, but he missed the last 12 games before the All-Star break because of a sprained left ankle.
“We were pleased to add Tyson to the Thunder roster,” general manager Sam Presti said. “During the course of the physical examination and outside consultations some questions arose that gave us cause for concern. We felt that this course of action was the best for our organization.”
New Orleans players had been distraught about the trade Tuesday, questioning it as a decision brought on because of the team’s desire to stay below the salary cap instead of as a way to improve the roster. Chandler is due to make about $12 million next season.
All-Star forward David West called it a business decision instead of a basketball decision, and said it “leaves a big question mark in the middle” for New Orleans.
Point guard Chris Paul, also an All-Star, called Chandler his “big fella” and credited the 7-foot-1 center with helping him become a more confident player.
When word the trade had been rescinded reached Hornets players following their 117-85 win over Orlando on Wednesday night, many of them rejoiced.
“I’m excited to have T.C. back,” Paul said. “I think it will give us a huge lift. Hopefully it will bring us closer together. You know, T.C. is family to us, so there won’t be any animosity when he comes in here and he understands what’s been the goal all along.”
With the trade deadline looming Thursday, both teams have little time left to decide if they’ll go in a different direction instead.
The Thunder, who’d been trying to find a franchise center for years with a series of first-round draft picks that didn’t pan out, thought they might finally have their man. Instead, they’re back in the market for a big man.
Chandler had been a big part of the turnaround that landed the Hornets the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last year, when they pushed San Antonio to Game 7 in the conference semifinals. He averaged a double-double with 11.8 points and 11.8 rebounds and had more than 100 alley-oop dunks off of lobs from Paul.
His numbers were down a little, to 8.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this season as he missed 18 games due to injury.
“I think a lot of that is because of the injuries that he’s suffered this season,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said after the trade. “He’s had a series of injuries this season that have really stunted his progress, unfortunately. I don’t think it’s so much that he’s changed as a basketball player. I think it’s that he’s had some unfortunate circumstances.”
Scott had lamented the trade as the toughest he’d had to deal with as a coach, because he had believed in Chandler’s ability to continue developing his offensive game and he had a personal friendship with Chandler. The two planned to travel to the Bahamas in the offseason with a group.
“He’s a coach’s dream. He’ll do whatever you ask him to do, and he’ll do it to the best of his ability. He has no excuses about him,” Scott said.
“He’s just going to go out there and try to do everything possible to win. I told him I was sick. I was sick about it. I said, ‘From a personal standpoint, I’m sick to see you go. But from a professional standpoint, this is our business and this is what happens in the business.”’
Scott said he was “just kind of quiet for a little while” after general manager Jeff Bower informed him that the trade had been completed.
“I know we as coaches aren’t supposed to get emotionally involved, but we are human beings,” Scott said.
Now, Scott and the rest of the Hornets might not have to worry about saying goodbye but instead get a chance to see what Chandler can do if he gets healthy again.
“I still think the sky’s the limit for Tyson,” Scott said. “He has had an injury-plagued season, there’s no doubt about that.”