DALLAS — If you were to ask newly-acquired Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler, he probably wouldn’t tell you that he was the missing piece for the team this season. Not in so many words.
With that said, he also probably wouldn’t downplay the fact that he might have been the missing ingredient that could have helped the Mavericks derail the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
Wednesday, the Mavericks announced that they had reacquired Chandler in a trade with New York that also included the addition of point guard Raymond Felton. In return, the Mavs sent back starting center Samuel Dalembert, first-string lead guard Jose Calderon and reserves Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington. Dallas surrendered a pair of second-round selections in Thursday’s draft as well, relinquishing the 34th and 51st picks.
But, according to Chandler, the Mavs may have gotten the missing piece to a championship chase simply by adding the 7-foot-1 center and reintegrating the heart and soul of their 2011 title team.
“I think rim protection and finishing and a lot of second opportunities,” Chandler said when asked what the Mavs were missing when they pushed the Spurs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. “Just little key things that I saw that was missing in that series, as far as San Antonio breaking them down at certain points and being able to get easy baskets. And, obviously, the lack of getting extra shots, whether it was offensive rebounds or easy rebounds and outlets. I think that was the biggest thing that they lacked that hurt them getting over the hump. But, like I said, they gave [the Spurs] everything that they had and I think they had no reason to hold their heads down after that year.”
He added: “That was my role when I was there. Watching [the Mavericks] in years past, I think it was lacking. My job is to be even better than I was the year that I had there. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to providing that and seeing what we can do.”
Detailing everything that he provides on the court, Chandler modestly confessed that he believes he was in fact the missing piece to the puzzle.
For his career, the 31-year-old Chandler holds averages of 8.7 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 845 games (648 starts), suiting up with Chicago, New Orleans, Charlotte, Dallas and New York in his 13 seasons. But it’s his lone season in Dallas that both Chandler and the Mavs hope he can replicate, averaging 10.1 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds during Dallas’ title run while garnering All-Defensive Second Team honors.
“It gives us a shot blocker, rebounder and someone that’s certainly familiar with the system,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said in regard to Chandler’s addition. “He’s a great guy in the locker room, a running mate with Dirk [Nowitzki], a franchise center and it gives us one of the better front lines in the league. And we’re just so happy to have him back. … We’re just fortunate and blessed to have him back.”
“[Chandler] was the one that kind of finished off the making of that roster and that team,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle added while reminiscing back to the 2010-11 squad. “So, now our goal is to see that [another title run] happens again this coming year.”
The 2012 Defensive Player of the Year will look to recapture his form with the Mavericks after playing the past three seasons with the Knicks. Chandler will also attempt to shake off a season of nagging injuries, playing in 55 games during the ’13-14 campaign and averaging 8.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.
And if he can do that, Chandler says the sky is the limit for the Mavericks next season.
“I watched the team compete in the playoffs last year and give San Antonio everything they could handle. And I thought they had a shot,” Chandler explained. “I thought a couple of plays here or there that series was the difference, and we know what San Antonio went on to go do. If you can challenge the champs like that and be a play or two away from actually advancing, that means you’re close. So, I think this team is close.”