If he wanted them, Tyson Chandler could probably get a set of keys to the city of Dallas, compliments of the mayor.
That’s because Chandler was one of the major reasons the Dallas Mavericks captivated this city while capturing the 2011 NBA title. A title that’s the only one the Mavericks have won since they started bouncing basketballs in these parts in 1980.
Chandler, however, doesn’t get such unconditional love in New York.
For reasons he doesn’t totally understand, Chandler was made out to be the scapegoat last season when the New York Knicks missed the playoffs and finished the weak Eastern Conference with a paltry 37-45 record.
Five months after the Knicks traded Chandler — and point guard Raymond Felton — to the Mavericks for a bevy of players, the 7-foot-1 center still is mystified why the hammer came down on him for all that went wrong with the Knicks last season.
“I don’t know why they did that,” Chandler said after Tuesday’s practice at American Airlines Center. “Only they can answer that question.
“I’ve since then moved on and don’t pay it any much attention, to be honest.”
Attention will be paid to Chandler’s stint in New York the past three years again and again, especially when the Mavericks (10-5) host the Knicks (4-11) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at AAC. That’s particularly true because Chandler signed a four-year, $55.4 million contract with the Knicks in 2011.
“I know a lot of the media, the next couple of days, will be [the Knicks] returning and me going against my former team,’’ Chandler said. “But in all honesty I’ve kind of swept it behind.
“It’s in the past and under the rug and I’m moving on with my future here.”
Chandler’s future in Dallas is unilaterally tied to his glorious past. In 2010-11 a battered Chandler joined the Mavericks after an oft-injured career in Charlotte, and then promptly brought some defensive culture and instilled some in-your-face locker room leadership.
“In the locker room he’s always the first guy to speak up if he sees something he doesn’t like, especially on the defensive end,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “His communication is next to no other than I’ve ever seen in my 17 years.
“When he makes a mistake, he wants to hear it. He wants to communicate about it and get better and put it behind him. He’s been amazing.”
Ironically, when the Knicks traded Chandler and Felton to the Mavs, team president Phil Jackson said it was done to change his squad’s chemistry. Chandler said Jackson never informed him he was going to trade him and took exception to that remark and saw it as a character assassination.
Chandler, who averages 10.3 points and 10.3 rebounds, also insists that his tough-love style worked his first two seasons in New York when he helped the Knicks to consecutive playoff appearances.
“It worked at times, but if things are going negative sometimes it just seems like they continue to go [negative],” Chandler said. “I had great relationships with all my teammates. I never had any problems, so it wasn’t that.
“It’s just that we were losing. People are always going to try to find something when you’re losing, but I don’t think it was necessarily that.”
Chandler missed 27 games last season, mainly due to a small nondisplaced fracture in his right fibula.
“He’s been a great impact on the court, off the court,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “Everything we thought he was, he was.”
Cuban believes everyone has to be on the same page for Chandler’s message to be conveyed properly.
“His organizational issues, or whatever was happening, and then somebody who’s trying to rally the guys, if the guys aren’t buying it, it’s going to be disruptive,” Cuban said. “Everybody’s got to buy it in order for it to work.”
Chandler said things went south last season because he was out an extended time with an injury, and because other issues were not fully addressed.
“When you don’t approach things consistently on a day-to-day basis, it’s just a matter of time before things start falling apart and your bad habits are exposed,” Chandler said. “I think the key part of it was I got hurt early and we never really recovered.
“We got behind the 8-ball and it was kind of an uphill battle from there.”
Raymond Felton has suffered a setback.
Felton tweaked his right ankle in practice Tuesday. It’s the same ankle the 10-year veteran injured — a high right ankle sprain — during an Oct. 10 preseason game against Oklahoma City.