Mavs Front Burner: Re-Signing Tyson Chandler

In the immediate afterglow of a Mavericks championship won in large part due to the heart-and-soul contributions of first-year Mavs center Tyson Chandler, the emotionally-charged decision is an easy one. Ask anybody ... his bosses, his teammates. But how easy will it be, really?

"I don't need to overstate his importance,'' says coach Rick Carlisle. "We'll do everything possible to make (Chandler's re-signing with Dallas) happen.

"We want to keep the important pieces intact, for sure,'' says GM Donnie Nelson.

"I don't really see Ty leaving and that's great with me,'' says Chandler's backup Brendan Haywood, so giddy in the moment that he cares not that free-agent Chandler's return to Dallas would mean Haywood continuing in a reserve role for the remainder of his Mavs career.

But "giddiness'' and "business'' will soon collide. And it will take three sides to get a deal done to keep Chandler, 28, from being involved in a fifth major transaction in his decade-long career.

"I really don't have it on the front burner of my thinking,'' Chandler recently told me in a one-on-one visit. "And I'll explain why: I've let myself get kind of emotional in the way I've thought about it before. I mean, in terms of assuming or thinking that the team I was with was going to be the best place and the (final) place. And then it doesn't work out, for whatever reason.

"I love being here (in Dallas). But I think I've learned a lesson there, you know?''

I do know. Tyson is with his third team in three seasons and his fourth team in a decade. He certainly assumed in both Chicago and New Orleans that he was a part of a long-standing foundation … thought he was wanted in Oklahoma City (before they flunked him on a physical due to foot problems) … thought he was wanted in Charlotte before they salary-dumped him to Dallas in exchange for the Mavs' brilliant DUST Chip steal.

"And then,'' he told me before the season had wound down, "you find out that it doesn't work that way. So instead of even thinking about the ups or the downs or the excitement or the disappointment, I've decided to just play every single game for what it is. It's a cliché, one-game-at-a-time, but it's a mistake to do it any other way.''

In public and in private, the Mavs are confident Chandler's immersion in "Mavs Culture'' is complete. There is the risk of overconfidence there on the part of the organization when it comes to some guys.

But hopefully not this guy, who is on a different level than other FA's like Barea and Caron ... and then levels down from them, Stevenson, Cardina and Peja.

"I do feel like this is my team, yes,'' Chandler tells me. "And I think we're in this together because if we take care of every day … all the things we all want will fall into place. I have decided to not worry about things I can't really control. But day-to-day, I can control that. And after that, we can all make it work out.''

The endorsements of TY staying in Dallas come in from all sectors. When Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson take the pulse of team leaders Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, they know the answers they will hear.

"He's right at the middle of everything we do in terms of talent, production, leadership,'' Kidd tells me, acknowledging the positive yelling and the motivational fist-pumping and the hang-on-the-rim dunking and the traffic-cop instructing on defense. "He fills those voids.''

The Triangle of Trust also knows the views of Carlisle.

"He's our heart-and-soul guy,'' says Rick. (A line that, by the way, helped inspire us to work with TY to create the "Chandler's Heart-and-Soul Food'' T-shirts.)

Chandler's personality is infectious enough that he instantly became close friends with everyone on the roster starting last fall in camp. As noted in this space before, he's a mentor to the sensitive Haywood, a jokester alongside class clown Dirk, a defensive analyst alongside Shawn Marion, a classy leader paired with Kidd, a social pal of J.J. Barea (they did the Super Bowl together) and most everyone.

We know the Mavs will spend money for a center. We also know that Mavs centers, once paid, tend toward a lessened production. To wit:

*The year before Erick Dampier signed his seven-year, $73-million contract in August 2004, he was a 12/12 guy at Golden State. The year after he did the deal he slipped to 9.2 points/8.5 rebounds. The year after that he settled into Damp reality at 5.7 points/7.8 rebounds.

*The year before DeSagana Diop signed his five-year, $38-million contract in 2008, he was at 3.5 points/5.2 rebounds. The year after he came back with a new deal he was 1.6 points/3.5 rebounds.

*The year before Haywood signed his six-year contract worth as much as $55 million this summer, he earned Dallas' trust with 8.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per following his February trade to the Mavs. The year after he got his money – and after being beaten out by Chandler at training camp – he spent part of the season as the Mavs' third-string center before popping back to life in the playoffs and doing fine work in helping to beat Portland, LA and OKC.

There seems to be nothing in TY's makeup that suggests he was playing only for a contract that he can eventually cruise on. … and he did play at a high level from start to finish, averaging 10.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game as one of Dirk's handful of "Robins.'' There is, however, an injury history to be observed. Tyson's had problems with his left foot, his left toe, his left ankle … but experienced none of these issues in 2010-11.

Chandler figures to be a hot free-agent commodity this summer, one that the Mavs will have to "overpay'' to retain. Haywood's deal is in the basement of the high-rise numbers that TY is about to receive. The uncertainties of labor negotiations, the coming new CBA and whatever cap/cap rules are in place are as much a factor here as are the desires of Chandler (and agent Jeff Schwartz) and the Mavs.


"In an ideal world, we keep it intact and make another run,'' Nelson said. "(But) none of us knows what the market will be like. We're in a holding pattern.''

The smart money says the campaigning of teammates – Jason Terry has suggested to Dirk that they storm the front-office doors demanding Chandler be retained – is unnecessary and that sometime after July 1, when the CBA dust has settled, Chandler will receive a long-term contract that maybe splits the difference between two deals done in the summer of 2010: the $9 million annually that Haywood can earn over the course of his deal and the team-high $20-mil deal given Nowitzki.

I'm educated-guessing there, but remember TY is coming off a year in which he made $12.75 mil. It will be easy for Schwartz to attempt to use that as a starting point.

( David Lord leads the Chandler Contract discussion here on Boards )

For the moment, celebration is what is on Tyson Chandler's front burner.

"I hear they do things big in Dallas," Chandler said at the team's championship celebration this week at the AAC, poking some fun at the defeated Heat's preseason prediction of multiple title. "There can't just be one! Two, three, four, five ..."

Right now, TY is counting imaginary championships. Soon, he will be counting the biggest contract of his lifetime.

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