Tyson Chandler still loves Mavericks

NEW YORK -- Tyson Chandler took a seat Saturday and began watching some film of the Dallas Mavericks. And as the film rolled, the New York Knicks' center started feeling a bit queasy.

The uneasiness from Chandler came because everyone knows he helped change the defensive culture for the Mavs, and that he was the defensive backbone on a team that won its only NBA championship last season. But after just one year with the Mavs, Chandler is patrolling the middle for a Knicks squad that will host the Mavs at noon today at Madison Square Garden.

And that national ABC-TV matchup against his old buddies is making Chandler a bit antsy.

"It felt weird [Saturday] scouting and going over the films and watching them play," Chandler said after Saturday's practice. "It was just like an eerie feeling."

That eerie feeling from Chandler was present because he believed the Mavs would re-sign him and fellow free agents J.J. Barea, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson and make an honest bid to repeat as NBA champions.

"There never was really a negotiation, so I never was coming back," Chandler said. "It definitely was disappointing because Dallas was always my first option, but it just didn't work out.

"I think that's the most disappointing thing because I really felt in my heart that we could have repeated [as NBA champs] and we could have had a special situation, especially over the next three years or so. I felt like we had a great opportunity and I felt like we could have made moves to get younger through whatever, but it's all in the past now."

Chandler, who averages 11.7 points and 9.6 rebounds this season, knows he's going to get emotional by the time today's game tips off. Yet he said that's to be expected, because of the bond he developed with the Mavs last year.

"I've got a lot of respect for those guys, and I still love those guys like brothers," Chandler said. "I think any time you play against somebody that you love that much, you'll get out there and play hard.

"I even still love the [Mavs] management. I really cared for the organization and the people that were there, and I feel like everybody there were good guys."

While today is Chandler's first encounter with the Mavs since they parted after being offered only a one-year contract, he's especially looking ahead to March 6. That's when the Knicks make their lone trip to Dallas. That's also the night Chandler will receive his NBA championship ring before that game.

"I'm looking forward to that game out in Dallas," Chandler said. "And I'm definitely looking forward to receiving my ring."

Chandler also is looking forward to seeing what type of reception he'll receive from the Mavs' fans.

"I hope it's a great one because we did some special things last year," he said. "Dallas will always be in my heart and will always be home to me, because that's where I won my first and only championship at this point.

"It wasn't a situation where I didn't want to come back there, and I think the fans understand that."

Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni understands Chandler may have some butterflies flying around in his stomach as today's game approaches.

"I imagine there will be a lot of emotions, especially against the guys that he played with," D'Antoni said. "But Tyson's been on a few teams, so I would imagine he can't have emotions for every team.

"But I would imagine it's more emotional in Dallas than it is here. When we go down to Dallas he'll have a little bit more emotions getting his ring, and being there with the [pregame] ceremony."

It's a ceremony Chandler thought would have occurred for him on Jan. 25, when the current Mavs received their rings.

"I honestly thought Dallas was my home and I thought I would be there for the rest of my career," Chandler said. "So when I saw things weren't working out and they weren't going in my direction, it was very disappointing.I just thought I would be a Maverick forever."

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

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