Continued from page 1

On his second go-round, he decided to travel across the Pacific to Japan. Tyler signed a deal with Tokyo Apache, and by all accounts, was starting to grow into the player many thought he could become.

Mother Nature had other plans.

In the middle of an online video chat with his mother in March, everything started to shake _ not an uncommon feeling in Japan or for a kid from Southern California used to earthquakes. This one was different.

“He said, ‘Mom, it’s not stopping! It’s not stopping! Everything is shaking!’” she said. “We were very scared. But the one thing we were able to do was Skype with him. Later on, when we saw how big the devastation was around Japan with the tsunamis and everything, I didn’t want to tell him. He was in Tokyo, and there was no TV or anything there for him.

“I figured he had been through enough.”

With all the chances Tyler has taken, perhaps it’s only fitting that the franchise that drafted him would also gamble.

The Warriors paid Charlotte $2 million in a surprising decision to move up in the second round and select Tyler. Golden State needs a big man desperately and believes Tyler can eventually become that missing piece.

There was still some debate about whether to make that kind of financial commitment on an unproven talent whose work ethic and maturity have been questioned. In a crowded room on draft night last week, new Warriors assistant general manager Bob Myers spoke up.

Myers had known Tyler since Tyler was in middle school and kept in touch through his connections from his previous job at the Wasserman Media Group, where he was a sports agent. Myers let his voice be heard one last time by posing a question to new coach Mark Jackson in front of the basketball operations staff.

“I told Mark, ‘You’ve got to coach this guy,’” Myers said. “He said, ‘Let’s get him.’”

The Warriors will try to be patient with Tyler and aren’t expecting major contributions immediately.

They have a stellar backcourt with Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and first-round pick Klay Thompson. But Golden State has little size up front, a big reason the Warriors have been one of the worst defensive teams for most of the last decade.

Tyler doesn’t consider himself a “long-term project,” just another rookie who needs time to transition. Jackson views him the same way and said he will give the promising prospect a chance next season.

While he may have lost money on his rookie contract by slipping in the draft, Tyler believes his tumultuous path has made him stronger. Even if it didn’t always seem that way.

“There were times I was like, ‘Man, this is really hard.’ But there was never a time where I regretted my decision,” Tyler said. “I’m happy with it. I’m in the NBA. I have a chance. That’s all I ever wanted.”

Story Continues →