Is Tyson The 'Next Rashard' Or Next Manu'?

Tyson's in the Bay Area and just got to meet Joe Montana! Caron just rode a stretch limo into the Bulls' HQ! It's all very exciting, and the temptation for a title team like the Mavs is to 'just pay 'em.' But the Mavs can't 'afford' to do that (and I'm not talking tax rules or Cuban's wallet.) This is about whether Chandler wants to be The Next Rashard Lewis or The Next Manu.

Coming off a title, and with the opportunity to try to defend it, should the Dallas Mavericks pay Tyson Chandler any number it takes to keep him? Here's one key reason why they simply can't afford it. And it isn't about tax rules or Cuban's wallet.
The reality is, in every player's mind, the Mavs' payroll will imply the makeup of the team. By paying TY max or near-max money, you've re-designated it as a two-star team, Dirk-TY plus support from a bunch of talented others. But if he stays in Dallas on a $10M deal, it's one star Dirk, and a bunch of excellent non-stars all doing their thing together.

Those facts don't stop TY from pursuing the $20.3 mil a year he might think he's worth. But he shouldn't get that contract from the Mavs.

In the case of Dallas, I don't think re-casting Chandler as the co-star alongside Dirk is an accurate ranking. In 2010-11 Chandler was a 27 mpg guy with almost no offensive game except for dunking alley-oops. While his contribution last season as the Mavs won their first championship was vital, Kidd's was, too. And Jet's and Marion's and maybe even Haywood's, especially against the more rugged centers. And before we forget, maybe Butler was the Mavs' closest thing to Robin, had he been healthy all year.

I hear the argument: But if you have to, why not force it and pay him anyway, and have one really solid contributor be paid as if he's a star?

Unfortunately, that will create hidden problems unless he's truly a peer to Dirk. Obviously it messes up the payroll ... shatters the structure, really. It might mess up the roster, too, if what it takes to ink Chandler is the dumping of other important pieces (like Big Wood). But it also makes fan expectations on his play and contribution soar. And most importantly, team chemistry sours a bit as everyone who has taken a bit less to fit into a team-styled payroll now gets a slap in the face for their sacrifice.

From every angle, all will demand more from him for all the extra money, and unless you think he's truly a peer to Dirk, that's more than he's going to be able to deliver. Now he has to play 36 mpg to justify his co-star salary, not 27 mpg, and he breaks down. He has to score like a star and he can't create shots.

You've created a monster. A negative monster.

With inflated expectations, he becomes "worthless" next to his contract and he gets regarded as a bum. If he gets injured, it gets even worse. You don't want that on your payroll.

It's called Rashard Lewis.

Or he can take the contract that fits into the team structure that allows the team to work together for more titles. And his play would continue to be appreciated as he's expected to be himself, and no more.

Then he would be Manu Ginobili.

Lewis is the possessor of a $118-million contract that has two years to go. He'll make $21.1 mil this year and $22.7 mil next year and be one of the two highest-paid players in the NBA.
And in part because of that, Rashard Lewis is a punchline.

"You sign me to a deal, you think I'm going to say, 'No, I deserve $50 [million] instead of $80 [million]?','' Lewis recently told ESPN. "I'm like, 'Hell, yeah.' I'm not going to turn it down. You can't blame the players. If anything, we don't negotiate the deal. We've got agents that negotiate the deals with the team. Y'all need to go talk to the teams and the agents."

OK. Now, you COULD'VE said "no.'' Some have. Take Manu, who in 2010 signed a three-year extension of his relatively modest contract to earn $11 mil, $12 mil and $14 mil. Why? To be part of a title team. But Rashard, you didn't, so Rashard, I AM talking to the team -- to the Mavs. And I AM saying "no.''

A team shouldn't base all its decisions on which side (player or team) has leverage at a certain moment. That's not "planning.'' That's not "stable.'' And that's not "Asset Management,'' and you know how we feel about that. Haywood, Marion, Kidd and even Dirk are all playing under contracts that are fair and that fit. Structure matters because it helps you to be sure that a) you can have a full barrel of talent, b) everyone on the team will feel like their deal is "fair" in comparison to everyone else's, and c) it makes it easier to sell the next prospective Mav that everyone who plays here is willing to do so on a "fair" deal.
Or he can take the contract that fits into the team structure that allows the team to work together for more titles. And his play would continue to be appreciated as he's expected to be himself, and no more. Then he would be Manu Ginobili.

Tyson Chandler is a fine person and a fine player and a champion due for a payday. What else does Tyson Chandler want to be ... Rashard or Manu?

We'll learn the answer this week. And as the Mavs strive for "Asset Management,'' Tyson Chandler may learn a lot about himself in the process.

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