The man the Dallas Mavericks should never have let get away is coming back, in almost the exact situation that brought him here the first time.
When the Mavs traded for center Tyson Chandler in the summer of 2010, he was banged up with bad knees and on the final year of his contract. The Mavs are again acquiring Chandler, this time from the New York Knicks, and once again he is banged up with bad knees and on the final year of his contract.
So nice to have you back, sir. You should never have left us in the first place.
Acquiring Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton, mostly in exchange for Samuel Dalembert and Jose Calderon, is not the magic potion the Mavs need to push beyond San Antonio, Houston, Portland, the Clippers or Oklahoma City, but it immediately makes them better.
It also gives them more than enough room to make additional moves. No, not LeBron or ’Melo. Let’s be real, people.
Of all the players the Mavs let walk from their 2011 NBA title team, Chandler was the one they should have opened the vault to keep. Jason Terry, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler can all be found elsewhere. Active 7-footers are impossible to find, take forever to develop and change your team immediately.
As brilliant as Dirk Nowitzki was during that playoff run of ’11, there is no NBA title without Tyson cleaning up the messes in the middle. He changed shots, shot selections and the way opponents viewed the Mavs.
When he left as a free agent, the Mavs’ spin was they were afraid he would get hurt, and that there was nothing they could do because he wanted to live in New York City.
Chandler has been hurt — he hasn’t played in more than 66 games in his three years with the Knicks — but he has been good. And the Mavs have not been the same without him.
Should you be scared that Chandler’s body won’t hold up? Yes. But even a slightly banged-up Tyson Chandler is an upgrade over a completely healthy Samuel Dalembert, of whom — despite his physical stature — you could never be sure whether he would show up, or care.
Chandler is the rim protector — the cleaner — this team desperately needs to be any sort of viable threat other than merely to qualify for the playoffs.
Chandler at least will be playing for a coach that understands he can’t play this man more than 28 minutes a night. Rick Carlisle understood that from the moment they acquired Chandler in ’10 — he can only go for so long. The Knicks tried to make him more than a 30-minute-a-night player, which he is not.
Speaking of RC, bringing Chandler back should improve his mood immensely since he can trust his new starting center will care a lot more than his old one. Few players have brought more energy and passion to a regular-season game than Chandler. Dalembert, despite his physical attributes, brought energy and passion when he was interested. He is a good guy, but he just never seemed to care too much.
The Mavs, however, now need a point guard. Raymond Felton is not as good as Jose Calderon.
Calderon, as evidenced by the Mavs’ playoff series against the Spurs where he was routinely exposed, had three years remaining on a contract the team just dumped. But he will be missed.
He took care of the ball, and knew when/how to throw a pass. He was efficient. Carlisle could trust that he knew what he was doing. The problem was he could not defend, or penetrate.
Felton, who essentially has two years remaining on his deal, will never justify that he was the fifth overall pick in the ’05 draft, but he has a little more spunk to him than Calderon.
He can penetrate and is a decent passer, but is a career 41 percent shooter. Glass half full — paired with Carlisle, he could conceivably be a wash with the departed Calderon.
Since few teams blow off the NBA Draft more routinely than the Mavs, and they have no realistic chance to land LeBron or ’Melo, these are the types of deals this team needs in order to win.
The Mavs should never have let Tyson walk in 2011, but it’s wonderful to have him back now.