On Feb. 20, 2009 the Thunder made the first blockbuster trade of their young franchise’s history (disregarding anything with the Sonics). They sent Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler.
It all had to do with a big toe. Chandler, at the time was only 26 years old, was baffled by the decision of his doctor. The doctor in question, Dr. Carlan Yates had done the surgery on Chandler’s big toe and then cleared Chandler. Who played 79 games in the 2007-08 season of said surgically repaired big toe. Yates said he was unsure how long Chandler had on the toe and a hyperextension could exacerbate the potential injury.
“I was really disappointed too when I was traded,” Chandler said at the time. “I felt like if we were healthy we had a championship team in New Orleans. But I didn’t want to sulk so I started to get excited about the new challenge in Oklahoma City. I felt I could help turn that team around.”
Sam Presti at the time took the advice of medical professionals and rescinded the trade.
“During the course of the physical examination and outside consultations some questions arose that gave us cause for concern,” Presti said. “We felt that this course of action was the best for our organization.”
Chandler has gone on and played a relatively healthy career. He was a catalyst to the Dallas Mavericks beating Oklahoma City in the 2011 Western Conference Finals. He helped lead them to the NBA title over LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
He had the reputation as a high end defender and an elite rebounder, something the Thunder lacked that first year. Oklahoma City would go on to add Kendrick Perkins later down the line. It’s clear the Thunder would have never made the move for Perkins had Chandler been in Oklahoma City.
This is one of the few moves Presti has been criticized for. Chandler has continued to rebound at an elite rate. His defense is still quality. However, what’s unknown is how the Thunder would have been changed. Perkins, marred by injuries during his time in Oklahoma City, never really recovered from his groin injury to return to his force in Boston. While he was admirable on the court and admired in the locker room, Perkins still wasn’t the force they eventually paid for.
Oklahoma City probably wouldn’t have drafted James Harden, either. Moving in Chandler, the Thunder may have won a couple of more games and fell back in the lottery, changing the entire landscape of a franchise that would make it to the NBA Finals in just four season in Oklahoma City.
What will Oklahoma City do on Thursday? Will it become another footnote in history or will it be another deadline deal as we’ve come to expect in Oklahoma City?