February 2009: Tyson Chandler
Ever wanting to save money, the New Orleans Hornets (them again) agreed to trade Tyson Chandler to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the 2009 deadline, irrespective of the fact that they were receiving no significant players in return and had only the unsuitable Hilton Armstrong to replace him. Oklahoma City were looking for the defensive centre that would cement their long term lineup, and were willing to sacrifice all their financial flexibility over the next two seasons to get it. The only thing that stopped them was Tyson's physical.
Chandler had not been a pillar of health over the years. For example, he was becoming a genuinely excellent player in his third season, averaging 11/11 over the first ten games of the season, but then he landed on a chair diving for a loose ball and messed up his back. He missed 47 games, and while he returned to play the final 25, he didn't play them very well.
The following year, though, Tyson showed no long term effects from the back injury, and played 80 games off the bench. He was awesome, too, a valid candidate for both the DPOY and 6th man awards (losing the latter to his team mate, Ben Gordon). He went on to play 79, 73 and 79 games over the following three seasons, and had played more than 71 games in 6 of his 7 seasons.
Then, in the season that he was traded, Tyson started to suffer from a succession of injuries. He dropped out of Team USA workouts in the summer with left big toe discomfort (an injury which had kept him out of the last five games of the 2006/07 season), then started out the NBA season with a sprained right ankle, and later missed games as he suffered from neck spasms. (Presumably, the three things were unrelated.) Chandler then turned his ankle in a January 2009 game, and missed a month; it was in the week before he returned to action that his trade to OKC was made and unmade. The Thunder rescinded the trade on account of the condition of his left big toe; Tyson, naturally mystified as to how it could be considered so bad, didn't like the story. After all, he'd missed only 5 games in his career because of the toe, and they were two years earlier.
Chandler then missed another month with the same left ankle injury, returning only for the season finale. He recorded only 45 games played on the season, the second worst mark of his career. He followed that up last year by playing in only 51 games, struggling early with the same ankle injury (on which he had offseason surgery; he also had surgery on the toe) before going down at Christmas time with a stress fracture in the same left foot. He returned for the final two months and the playoffs, but was way below his best, as he was before the lay-off. None of his totals of 51 games played, 6.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game were career lows, but they may as well has been. And they're certainly not the player OKC considered trading for.
Are all these left foot/ankle injuries related to the left toe problem? Could not say. But Oklahoma City's doctors feared an injury history in that exact foot, if not in that exact way. It probably is not a coincidence. I am neither a qualified physician nor a smart man, yet I see enough grounds here to logically conclude that the triumvirate of left foot and/or ankle injuries must surely be inter-related, and that therefore, since the toe injury came first and loudest, it may all have originated from that. This conclusion supports OKC's decision. And if there's nothing seriously wrong with Tyson's toe, why does he keep having it operated on?
(Interestingly, Tyson has since been traded twice, to Charlotte last summer and onto Dallas earlier this month. He didn't fail either of those physicals.)