After the Dallas Mavericks shocked the Miami Heat in 2011 by capturing their first championship in franchise history, owner Mark Cuban decided to let their defensive bulwark, Tyson Chandler, walk. Chandler signed a four-year, $47 million sign-and-trade that sent him to the Knicks so Cuban could avoid the dreaded luxury tax payments as part of the 2011 CBA while plotting a final title run before Dirk Nowitzki retired. Cuban brought Chandler back this summer in the Jose Calderon swap, and the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year says he’s even better than in 2011.
While appearing on the Ben & Skin Show on KRLD-FM 105.3 radio yesterday, Chandler answered questions about his return to the town. As transcribed by the Dallas Morning News, here’s how Chandler explains his game now compared with three years ago:
“I think I’m better in understanding the game mentally. Physically, I’m in an incredible place. I haven’t felt this good in a long time. Over the years you learn different things. The more you are able to play this game, the better you are mentally. I’m excited to bring that to the table here again. I love the makeup of the team. We’ve been here for the last couple of weeks getting after it, playing pick up [games] and ran the hills yesterday as a team. We’ve been training as a team. People don’t know, but this is pretty early to have every player here already. I just like the makeup of this team. I think we’ve got great young guys. It’s a nice mix up of veterans and young players.”
Chandler was incredible in his first season in New York, putting up more defensive win shares than his 2011 campaign with the Mavs and capturing the Defensive Player of the Year award. Still, he missed 20 games that season and the Knicks floundered before coach Mike D’Antoni resigned and assistant Mike Woodson took over to lead them to a first-round playoff loss.
The next year Chandler was again playing well, enough to get elected to his only all-star game. This past season, though, we all know what happened to the Knicks. Except Chandler’s play didn’t fall off that much, and he can’t be blamed for the odd lineups (neglecting the small ball that was so effective in the 2012-13 season), and lackadaisical play-calling that summed up Mike Woodson‘s tenure during a much-maligned 27-45 campaign that saw them miss the playoffs in 2014.
Now Tyson’s back with Dallas, where he gets a fresh start with a crew of players who seem to be on the same page. According to Chandler, all of the Mavericks are back in Dallas three weeks before training camp, including free agent acquisition Chandler Parsons, and it’s obvious they’re excited to start the season.
Chandler also reminded listeners why the three-year, $25 million contract Dirk Nowitzki signed this summer might be the best deal of the offseason:
“We don’t have enough time on this show for me to explain the type of respect I have for Dirk Nowitzki. He and Jason Kidd are two of the most incredible teammates that I’ve ever been around. They’re two future Hall of Famers, but you wouldn’t know it walking into the practice facility. They’re in every meeting, every practice and they’re super humble always passing the credit along. He’s the type of guy, if I was a GM or president or owner, that I’d want to start my team with. He’s given Dallas his everything. When I first got here, I remember coming back late at night to get a lift in or work on some free throws and every single time I got there, he was there. He’d be putting up shot after shot after shot. It just shows that he’s never going to settle and he doesn’t want to settle. He always wants to win and he’s willing to do whatever it takes. A lot was made about what I did and what I accomplished in my year here. He’s the man. When you have the top dog leading that way, you can’t help but fall in line.”
With Chandler back to man the middle, Parsons on the wing along with Monta Ellis’ slashing forays to the rim and Dirk’s consistent efficiency from the elbow extended, the Mavs figure to be trading blows with the best of them during the slugfest in the Western Conference next season.
Only time will tell if Chandler’s correct when he says he’s better than he was in 2011, but he seems excited to start the season.
Where do the Mavs finish this year?
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