Even if the payoff eventually came two years later, the price to pay in the meantime would have been incredibly steep. And so much about the Thunder likely would have been different.
With Chandler, the Thunder might have left Serge Ibaka overseas rather than bringing him over from Spain, where Ibaka was stashed for one season following the 2008 draft. Eric Maynor and Thabo Sefolosha were both acquired via trade — and Sefolosha and Nick Collison were later re-signed to cap-friendly deals — only because of the salary cap space the Thunder had remaining after backing out of the Chandler deal. And if Chandler was healthy enough to usher in just a few additional wins, the Thunder could have seen its luck change in the NBA Draft Lottery and lost out on the No. 3 overall pick in 2009, which turned into James Harden.
Watch Chandler in the NBA Finals, though, and none of that seems to matter. He just looks like he belongs on OKC's roster.
But Chandler admitted his injuries two seasons ago were so agonizing they led him to question his place, his skills and his future.
“It's been a tough couple of years for me,” Chandler said. “I remember coming off surgery and just really asking myself what is this all about, and not knowing the future and not knowing my capabilities on the court, how effective I would be.
“So going through all of that, going through rehab, going through last year, it's amazing to be here. And it's important that you seize the moment. You take advantage of this opportunity, because I've been on the other end and looking like it would never happen.”
Mavs forward Peja Stojakovic, a teammate of Chandler's for three seasons with the Hornets in Oklahoma City and New Orleans from 2006-09, remembers seeing Chandler constantly in the training room. But he never heard Chandler discuss his ailments.
“Tyson is always a fighter,” Stojakovic said. “When he steps on the court, he's giving everything. He'll never tell you that he's hurt.”
Now that he's healthy, Chandler has revitalized his career.
Thunder fans are just forced to watch it blossom in a different city.