There's no official word that Chandler will be out till February 17th... but I doubt Byron Scott would've said it publically, if he didn't believe it. Anyways, there's a couple different ways we can look at this. Either it's super-awful-horrible news, or there are some positives we can take away.
Glass Half Full
- As good as he was last year, TC hasn't played great basketball this season. Even after including his late surge before injury, you can make a good case that he's been a barely above average player in 32 games. This is a great chance for him to get his head straight for the stretch run.
- Chandler has played an average of 84 games a season, the last 4 years. With this month off, he'll have fresh legs for the playoffs.
- New Orleans will be forced to make a move on the frontline. I expect David West and Hilton Armstrong to return by week's end. Still, there will be a gaping hole in the front court. Anthony Tolliver was signed last week, but 4 days of his 10 contract have already expired without him seeing a minute of action. If this Chandler injury ends up being the catalyst to acquiring Rod Benson or Richard Hendrix from the D-League, it'd be the best thing to happen to us this year.
- The injury forces Byron Scott to tinker with his lineups. We've already seen this in action against NJ and MIN. Melvin Ely's and Sean Marks' inadequacies on the front lines basically force Scott to go to a small-ball lineup. Of course, small-ball implies Julian Wright and Morris Peterson. If those two guys can become bench staples by the time Tyson returns, there's a good chance they retain their roles heading into the playoffs.
- David West will have to put a renewed emphasis on rebounding. Known for his strong rebound rates in his initial years, he's suddenly fallen off this season. With Tyson Chandler out, West will have to put out a lot more hustle on the court, something sorely lacking thus far. In the long run, that has to be a very, very good thing.
- Byron Scott's gameplans must become more creative. My biggest gripe with Scott this year isn't his refusal to play Wright/MoPete, as aggravating as that is. Instead, his offensive sets have become much too stale. The overreliance on the Chris Paul/Tyson Chandler pick and roll has made the Hornets' offense much too easily defended by the top defensive teams. Chandler's absence (and Hilton's inability to catch) will probably force the offense to become much more motion driven. This means more looks for Peja, more looks for Butler, and variations on the ways David West gets his shots. A month without TC allows the Hornets to basically have two playbooks, something that woud surely come in handy in May.
Glass Half Empty
- We're gonna lose some games. Any way you slice it, New Orleans is worse off with Chandler in a suit. This could be huge in terms of playoff seeding. We have to hope that Houston and San Antonio stumble a little bit heading into the All Star Break.
- The "not getting into rhythm" thing will continue perilously close to playoff time. It's definitely not a good sign when an expected WC Finals contender has nothing resembling consistency heading into February. But that's what we will be facing. It won't be impossible to overcome. It's just that we'll only have a couple months to rectify it once Chandler returns.
- The load on Chris Paul just increased exponentially. He's already playing more minutes per game than he has in his young career. With Chandler out, he's going to have to work a lot harder for each point and assist. Instead of having a clear lane to the hoop via a Tyson screen, he'll need to shake his man one-on-one, or dribble around until something opens up.
- Staying on the subject of screens, Hilton Armstrong is a really, really, really poor screen setter. This has to negatively impact Rasual Butler and Peja Stojakovic, who rely on Chandler's rib-shattering picks to get open. This could potentially force the Hornets to shoot later in the shot clock (multiple screens must be set) or take less threes in general (also bad, given our high conversion rates).
- Did I mention we're gonna lose some games?
As you can maybe tell, I'm leaning towards the glass half full side. Certainly, we could lose some very valuable playoff seeding. Homecourt advantage could play a large role in the playoffs (especially against a team like Utah), and there's a huge risk we're running. But it's important to note that the potential gains could be even bigger. Potentially finding an adequate big man, potentially working two of our best bench players back into the rotation, potentially fielding an offense that isn't 95% pick and roll. If this team could hang on to a 5 or 6 seed with those gains? I'll take that every time over a 2 or 3 seed that buries Mo and JuJu on the depth chart and consistently struggles against good defenses.