tyson chandler

by Adam Figman

Here’s a bit of an understatement: These past few months have been a particularly tough stretch for the New York Knicks. They’re five games out of postseason contention in the absurdly weak Eastern Conference; their starting point guard is facing all types of legal issues; their superstar’s future with the franchise is beyond murky; they can’t avoid the injury bug; and, of course, they have zero first-round picks in the loaded 2014 NBA Draft. Meanwhile, through all the turmoil, starting center Tyson Chandler seems to be keeping it together—as the group’s occasional spokesperson, the 31-year-old has been and will continue to be the squad’s go-to for level-headed veteran leadership during the ’13-14 campaign.

While promoting Activision’s Skylanders, Chandler phoned SLAM from the team bus to talk about playing the video game with his kids, the Knicks’ trying season and more.

SLAM: Are you a big video game fan?

Tyson Chandler: Yeah, mainly just with my kids or when my brothers come to town. Stuff like that.

SLAM: What do you play with the kids?

TC: They love the Skylanders game. They love that they can change the characters in the middle of the game and stuff like that. With other games, they can’t stay entertained that long, but with Skylanders, they can change their characters in and out—it kind of keeps their attention.

SLAM: Makes sense. It’s tough to keep kids’ attention.

TC: Yeah, exactly. If it’s not for that, they’re gonna be running around the house and pulling on my neck.

SLAM: Do any of your teammates play video games on the road?

TC: Some guys play video games, but it’s kind of rare because you have to bring the whole console, and the way we travel, you already have a lot of stuff, and we’re in and out of hotels. But yeah, [some guys play] if you have a long road trip or something like that.

SLAM: On Instagram, JR Smith referenced cards being played on the plane. What games are popular there?

TC: I think bourré. Poker and bourré. I’m good at poker, but not at bourré. I don’t have time to play it.

SLAM: Who’s the best cards player on the team?

TC: Honestly, I don’t know, because I’m never up there playing. I’m in the back, napping.

SLAM: Well you’re a father—you have to get whatever sleep you can.

TC: Exactly, that’s I was gonna say. [Laughs] I’ve gotta make sure my minutes count.

SLAM: It’s obviously been an up-and-down season for you guys. How do you stay focused when things get rocky?

TC: Just taking it day by day, game by game. I think when you look at it as a whole you get a little overwhelmed and burned out. But if you look at each game as a new challenge, and then in that game work on each possession, you find yourself locked in. When you’re younger you have your set goals, and sometimes you can get distracted if you’re reaching them or not reaching them, but if you really just focus in on that moment and putting all your energy towards that, you can accomplish whatever it is that you’re after.

SLAM: Is that difficult to understand when you’re younger?

TC: Yeah, absolutely, because you’re not patient. You don’t have the patience to look at it that way, because you’re ready for it now.

SLAM: There obviously isn’t one specific answer to this, but what’s the key in your mind to turning the Knicks’ season around and making a postseason run?

TC: Really just taking it the way I approach things individually and putting it into the team—not getting ahead of ourselves, focusing on the one game at hand. If you look at the whole picture, it can be intimidating, as far as things that we’re gonna need to win to put ourselves in that position. But if you look at it game by game, you understand it can be accomplished.

SLAM: Have you had any advice for Raymond over the past 24 hours?

TC: No, no. Just kind of been there as a friend and a teammate.

SLAM: People always talk about how intense the media is in New York City, but you’re pretty good at handling it. How do you avoid letting the media drive you crazy?

TC: I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t read any articles that come out, whether they’re good or bad. That way, I never let it distract me. A lot of times you can get consumed with the writers and blogs and media and what they put out about you, but if you don’t know what they put out, it’s not really affecting you. I try to approach them day to day as men and women in the locker room, but other than that, I don’t really know what they put out, and honestly, I couldn’t really care less.

SLAM: You should still read SLAM, though. It’s much better than the newspapers.

TC: [Laughs] Much better.

SLAM: Has this season been the biggest challenge you’ve experienced during your NBA career?

TC: Yeah, it’s definitely tested not only my basketball abilities, but also my character and leadership qualities, because it has been a tough one. But this is one that I feel like I can get my guys through.