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On Tyson Chandler and letting go

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Tyson Chandler gave quotes to both ESPN Dallas and Grantland in advance of tonight's game against the Knicks.

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Ask any of my close friends to talk about something that I can't seem to let go of, and they'll all tell the same story. When I was a sophomore in college, I went on my first real date. I had dated girls in high school, but this felt different. I had asked to take her out, dressed up nicely, was picking her up at her house (she lived off-campus), and was planning on paying for both bowling and dinner. The night started off with a few bumps, as the first bowling alley we went to didn't have any open lanes and we got lost on the way to the second. However, GPS saved the day and the date continued on smoothly from there. After an almost 3-hour dinner that included a "coincidental" visit from her roommates, who were promptly shooed away by my date, we left the restaurant only because it closed. When I dropped her back off at her house, she lingered and fumbled with her keys. I knew what this meant, thanks to "Hitch," so I went 90% and she went the other 10. As I remember it, the kiss was amazing. After that, we parted ways, agreeing to do it again.

If the first date started off poorly and finished perfectly, the second one started well and finished about as terribly as you can imagine. Mini golf went excellently, and we then stopped for ice cream. The parlor was really more like a walk-up window; we could only pick up the ice cream there and had to eat outside, which was no big deal because it was the middle of April. As soon as we sat down, I started to feel sick. I tried to power through it, but there came a point where I couldn't take it anymore. Normally, I would just find a bathroom inside a nearby store, but none were open. I sprinted away from my date, but didn't get far before I had no choice but to vomit in a garbage can. I was unbelievably embarrassed by it, but she was actually quite cool about the situation. We left immediately and, once we returned to her house, she promised to call me later to check on me. Regardless of how little the whole thing seemed to faze her, it completely ruined me. We went out a third time, but I was a nervous wreck the whole time and obviously made her uncomfortable. About a half hour into the date, I couldn't handle my anxiety any longer and made up an excuse to take her home. I asked her out twice more, but she turned me down both times.

It's been four and a half years since those three dates, yet I still think about them. I liked this girl a lot and felt as though things between us could have progressed into something serious, but my inability to deal with the fact that something that happens to every single person on Earth happened to me at an inopportune time derailed any chance at that. Even as I've gone on to date other girls (and luckily have never vomited while on a date again), I still think back to that girl and those dates, mentally punishing myself for mishandling the situation. I've learned a lot from that mishandling, but that hasn't changed how much I regret the outcome. Constantly replaying those events in my head is an exercise in futility, but even admitting that hasn't allowed me to let go.

Which brings me to Tyson Chandler. Two articles released yesterday featured quotes from Tyson. One was specifically about his time in New Yorkwhile the other was about the Mavericks' early success. Based on his quotes from the first article, it's clear he feels things weren't right near the end of his tenure with the Knicks.

On whether he feels scapegoated:

"At times, at times, at times," Chandler told ESPNDallas.com. "But I feel like New York made me a lot stronger, a lot stronger of a person going through trials and tribulations there. But that's life."

On his leadership:

"I think people can take it differently and make it what they want to make it," Chandler said when asked whether his leadership attempts were lost in translation in New York. "It also depends on where your mind is. If everybody is locked in and they want to win and they know I'm in it 100 percent and they're in it 100 percent, nobody's sensitive. But if there's other agendas, it's going to make things sensitive."

On prior comments about the Knicks:

"I just wanted to air it out," Chandler said. "Honestly, after that, I was done with it. My agent is like a big brother to me. He gave me a phone call and was like, 'Are you done?' I was like, 'Yeah, I'm done.'"

On his new team:

"In all honesty, I'm so focused on the Mavericks that the Knicks are in my rearview mirror. I don't mean that in a negative way, but it's in the past, and I'm moving forward."

Of course, the above quotes came in response to questions about the Knicks. What's much more telling, I think, is what Tyson Chandler says when he's not overtly talking about New York. The following quotes come from Zach Lowe's article about Dallas's superb start to this season.

On the Mavericks' offensive strategy:

Chandler likes this mantra: "The ball dictates the shot, not the person."

"I know which guy is supposed to bump me — and where he should be," Chandler says. "If I see that place is empty, then it’s gonna be a quick action. I want to get right to the rim."

"It’s all misdirection on that play," Chandler says. "And then it’s just reading the defense. It’s kind of like I’m an option quarterback."

About Dallas's defense:

"Our scheme is nothing fancy, but you can’t just assume everyone understands how to do it," Chandler says. "Not everyone has been in a great defensive system before. Years before, it didn’t need to be said — you played both ends of the floor. Now it’s different. Not everybody plays both ends. Some guys don’t even think about defense.

"You can hide out there on the floor sometimes," he says. "You can’t hide on film."

On the Mavericks in general:

"The thing I love is being able to see growth through an entire season," he says. "Everyone on this team is willing to do the right thing. I think we can make it work."

Read through the eyes of someone who understands what it's like to be unable to let something go, it's pretty clear that Tyson is talking about the Knicks as much as he is about the Mavericks, even if he doesn't intend to. He has shouldered a fairly large chunk of the blame for New York's disastrous 2013-14 season, and that doesn't sit well with him. I can't say I fault him for that. For two and a half seasons, Tyson Chandler was the Knicks' defense. Mike D'Antoni and Mike Woodson both depended unequivocally on Tyson to corral opposing players with no help whatsoever, and for two and a half seasons, Tyson did exactly that without voicing much opposition. If you were to look up the definition of "yeoman's work" at any time between December 2011 and January 2014, you would probably find a picture of Tyson Chandler sliding into the paint to deter a point guard barreling towards the rim while his bewildered Knicks teammates looked on helplessly.

But finally, halfway through last season, Tyson vomited in a garbage can. He wouldn't be one of very few players among a group of men who, just like he was, were paid to play basketball professionally to make an effort on both ends of the floor any longer. In the last half of the season, Chandler made it quite obvious that he was uninterested in continuing to cover everyone else's asses and overtly stopped trying to defend. Such a rebellion was in no way the right thing to do, but hindsight is 20/20. In the moment, all he could do was react. Even if Tyson's behavior wasn't the sole reason that Phil Jackson shipped him out this past summer, it was surely a determining factor.

His personal coup d'etat and the fact that he no longer plays for the Knicks created the perfect storm for Tyson Chandler to be the sponge that soaked up most of the frustration directed towards what was in actuality a franchise-wide problem not only last year, but for more than a decade. Chandler doesn't deserve the ridiculously high level of criticism he receives from portions of the Knicks fanbase and media, but the fact that it still weighs on his mind, even subconsciously, shows that he blames himself too. However, it may not be about who deserves blame; sometimes things are just not meant to work out, and nothing could have changed that.

I truly believe that Chandler feels like he's done with the Knicks and has moved on, and I truly believe that he wants to stop thinking about the past. But just like me, he can't let go. Lest we forget, Tyson had very high hopes for what the Knicks could accomplish.

Knicks fans who continue to harp on Tyson Chandler's perceived faults need to take a crash course in letting go as well. The Knicks were not a good team last season, and Chandler could not have made them into one even if he'd continued to play the part of the good soldier who played tenacious defense when almost no one else would. It's more obvious now than ever, as New York has limped to a 4-11 record, that removing Tyson from the equation was not some magical solution that would cure all of the team's ills. The Knicks' issues were much more deep-seated than a center who gave a shit and gave a shit and gave a shit until he just couldn't give a shit anymore.

And honestly, even if they weren't, even if we existed in an absurd parallel universe where the Knicks' only issue was employing a disgruntled Tyson Chandler, he plays for the Dallas Mavericks now. Thinking about it, talking about it, trying to identify where exactly things went wrong: none of that will rewrite history and put the Knicks into the 2013-14 NBA postseason. Instead, just as I need to learn to appreciate the lessons I've learned from those three dates in April 2010 and stop focusing on how I screwed up, people who continue to blame Tyson Chandler for last season or even the less severe failures of the prior two should learn to appreciate the many successes he was responsible for as well.

It's inevitable that seeing Tyson Chandler play against the Knicks tonight will trigger thoughts about his time with the team, both in him and in the fans, and that's understandable. Similarly, it'd be understandable for me to think back to sophomore year if I were to run into that girl on the street. But whenever Tyson Chandler isn't sharing a court with the Knicks, and whenever I'm not staring the girl who saw me vomit in a trash can in the face, let's all agree not to obsess over what could have happened if only things had been slightly different. It's well past time to let go.