UPDATED: March 2, 2:11 pm: The good news is that X-rays on Chandler’s ankle were negative. But the bad news is he will be out at least two more games, according to the Dallas Morning News. Those games are against the Pacers and the surging Grizzlies. That Grizzlies game starts a four-games-in-five-nights stretch for Dallas, so it is possible Chandler will be rested more.
March 1, 8:31 pm: Scary moment for the Mavs on Tuesday night: during the second quarter of their game against the Philadelphia 76ers, center Tyson Chandler landed awkwardly on his right ankle and looked to be in a considerable amount of pain. Chandler attempted to stand up on his own, but eventually returned to the floor as he waited to be examined by the Mavs’ training staff.
However, Chandler’s injury wasn’t deemed to be too serious. According to Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com, Chandler was diagnosed with an ankle sprain, and though he won’t return to the game tonight, it’s unlikely that he’ll miss considerable time. Dallas doesn’t play again until Friday, which should give Chandler plenty of time to rest his ankle. That said, all of this is based only on the training staff’s initial determination of Chandler’s injury, and his status could change with more time for assessment.
For now, the Mavs can breathe a sigh of relief. Although Dallas is deeper in the middle than most (having Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi available on the bench is a significantly better center outlook than most teams can claim), Chandler is the unquestioned leader of the Mavs’ eighth-ranked defense. Haywood is a very solid defender in his own right, but he isn’t as athletic as Chandler, and not as capable of challenging ball-handlers on the pick-and-roll and recovering in time to defend the paint. Chandler is one of those uncanny defenders who can seem to be everywhere at once, and his ability to defend the interior compares with that of Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett. Chandler can’t claim a defensive impact quite as profound as those two, but his impact on Dallas’ defense is similar.
The Mavs are among the best teams in the West, but a hard fall for Chandler (or Dirk Nowitzki) is all it would take for Dallas’ season to come crashing down. Injuries to other players would derail the Mavericks’ contending hopes, but Chandler’s play this season has made him an irreplaceable element. Dallas could try to make do with Haywood and Mahinmi, but neither can do what Chandler does for the team’s defense, just as no other player could do what Nowitzki does for the offense.