Tyson Chandler is finally back where he always wanted to be.
Where he pieced together his greatest accomplishment during his solid 13-year career.
Yet, the 7-foot-1 center couldn’t help but see the irony in what has become his second tour of duty with the Dallas Mavericks.
In the summer of 2010, the Mavericks acquired Chandler in a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats. At the time Chandler was in the final year of his contract, but what a year it was for the Mavericks.
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Chandler became the emotional and fiery leader for the Mavericks. He protected the rim and brought a defensive culture that helped the Mavericks win the 2011 NBA championship before he signed a four-year, $60 million free-agent contract with the New York Knicks.
Fast forward three years, and owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson decided to acquire Chandler in a trade with the Knicks.
Again, Chandler is in the final year of his contract.
Last week’s blockbuster trade — involving six players and two draft choices — was so surreal that Chandler couldn’t help but chuckle.
“The funny thing is I was like laughing to myself just Wednesday night,” Chandler said. “Cuban and Donnie are something else.
“I don’t know how they got me twice in trades. I don’t know. It worked out last time. I hope it works about as good as it did last time.’’
So, too, do the Mavericks.
Coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged why Chandler is so beloved in this market, even though he was only with the Mavericks for one season.
“Because we won a championship and he was a decisive ingredient to that, and had we not [won] he still would have been very well thought of,” Carlisle said. “No doubt about that.
“But he was the one who kind of finished off the making of that roster and that team. Now our goal is to see that that happens again this coming year.”
Nelson is certainly overjoyed to have Chandler back as a front-court running mate with perennial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. However, it’s not just Chandler’s exceptional contributions on the court that fascinates the Mavs.
“Obviously the on-the-court stuff is what everybody sees,” Nelson said. “Certainly, there’s history there with Dirk and Rick and our franchise.
“But I really can’t put into words what he brings in terms of the integrity ... for a teammate. Every practice with a guy like Tyson Chandler just takes a whole step up, and we’re just fortunate and blessed to have him back.”
Chandler, 31, watched the Mavericks’ first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs this year with great interest. And although the Mavericks took the eventual NBA champion Spurs to seven games, Chandler noticed what possibly prevented Dallas from winning that series.
“I think rim protection and finishing and a lot of second opportunities,’’ Chandler said. “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 them everything that they had and I think they had no reason to hold their heads down after that year.’’
Mavericks free-agent guard Devin Harris noted that the addition of Chandler provides Dallas with a defensive cleanup man for the mistakes that are often made on the perimeter.
“I think the move for Tyson was big on Dallas’ part just because I think he had his best year under Dirk,’’ Harris said. “I think he fits what Dirk needs as a front-court mate and just the defense that he brings.
“He’s not a guy you need to throw the ball to in the post — he’s a consistent roller. He knows what to look for, he can be a defensive backbone. All those things fit well with, I think, a guy like Dirk.”
Chandler was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and played in his only NBA All-Star Game in 2013. But he missed 27 games last season, most of them because of a fractured right leg.
Chandler said he finished the season healthy, then took two weeks off before he was back in the gym working out and preparing for the upcoming season.
He is focused on recapturing the magic of 2011 and helping the Mavericks sign Knicks free-agent small forward Carmelo Anthony. What happens next summer when Chandler again becomes a free agent and might have to haggle with the Mavericks for another contract hasn’t crossed his mind.
“My whole thing is I’m not going to worry about that at all throughout the year,” Chandler said. “I’m going to focus on the day-to-day things and try to make this team as good as I can, and the best way to start with that is looking in the mirror and asking myself what do I need to improve on to help this team.
“My job is to be even better than I was the year that I had there. I’m looking forward to providing that and seeing what we can do.”