CHICAGO – Raymond Felton has known Tyson Chandler longer than anyone associated with the Dallas Mavericks.
As high school phenoms, Felton and Chandler first ran into each other over 14 years ago while they were showcasing their talents for college and pro scouts.
"The first time I met him is when he was playing with Dominquez (in Compton, CA) back in high school,’’ Felton said. "Then I’d see him at the Nike camp and all that stuff growing up as high school kids.’’
Because of what he saw in Chandler back in 2000, Felton is not surprise of the success the Mavs’ center has enjoyed in the NBA.
"I don’t really think he gets the publicity he should as a (center) in this league, but he’s definitely one of the game-changers as a (center) in this league for sure,’’ Felton said. "What a lot of people don’t know is Tyson can do a whole lot of things.
"He can shoot the mid-range decent, he can put it on the floor in the post and face up, but with the type of team we have there’s no need to do anything extra with his game. We have scorers at every position, going down starting with Dirk (Nowitzki) (power forward) all the way down, we can put the ball in toehold. But Tyson is really big and really key for our team.’’
Felton and Chandler were teammates in Charlotte (2009-’10) and New York (2012-’14). Thus, he’s often seen the undying passion the 14-year veteran brings to the court.
"He’s one of those guys where he’s going to get on you,’’ Felton said. "He’s yelled at me plenty of times.
"We’ve gotten into our battles on the court about different things, but I know he’s doing it the right way and for the right reasons and I know he didn’t mean nothing by it. So I take it with a grain of salt and we move on past it.’’
Chandler had a stress fracture in his lone season playing for Charlotte and missed 31 games. It was an injury, Felton said, which stymied the success of Charlotte, who finished that season 44-38 and as the Eastern Conference’s No. 7 seed were swept in four games by Orlando in the first round of the playoffs.
"In Charlotte he was hurt a lot, but was still one of those high energy guys,’’ Felton said. "I felt like we would have had a better push in the playoffs that year if we would have had him healthy.’’
A healthy Chandler was one of the backbones of a Mavs squad which won the 2011 NBA championship. And a healthy Chandler has posted nine double-doubles this season for Dallas and is averaging 11.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
"Tyson is a high energy big man who rebounds well, (and is a) great defender,’’ Felton said. "That’s what he’s known for.
"He can really do a lot of other things, but he’s a guy that’s found what his niche was in the NBA and he’s just mastered it. And that is defending, blocking shots and rebounding like crazy.
"And of course throw the ball any kind of way (on lobs) and he’s going to get it. He’s one of those guys where we need him and his contributions every night in order for us to get over that hump versus any team.’’