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Tyson Chandler, better than ever, thinking legacy

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BOSTON – Tyson Chandler made history the moment he played for the Knicks.

After helping the Mavericks win the 2011 championship, Chandler hit free agency during post-lockout chaos. Concerned about flexibility under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Dallas let Chandler sign with New York rather than than offer its own large multi-year deal.

It’s rare a player posts more than nine win shares for a championship team and doesn’t play for that team again the following season. It had happened with just Michael Jordan (1993 and 1998 with the Bulls), Bill Russell (1969 with the Celtics) and George Mikan (1954 with the Minneapolis Lakers), but they each retired after their title(s). Chandler – who had 9.4 win shares for the 2010-11 Mavericks, second to only Dirk Nowitzki – became the first to play for a different team the next year.

Dallas has won just three playoff games in the three years since letting Chandler leave, and the Mavericks’ relative struggles have not been lost on the center. Nor has it been lost on anyone else that Dallas failed to turn its cap flexibility into any major additions, getting spurned by Dwight Howard, Chris Paul,Deron Williams, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban practically admitted it was a mistake to let Chandler leave in 2011.

Does Chandler – who returned to Dallas in an offseason trade from the Knicks – ever wish he had stayed?

“Not so much,” Chandler said. “In the past, I did, especially when I watched them the year after the championship. I understood that things happen. The only thing that I think is, I just hope in one place long enough to get an opportunity to see my jersey hanging in the rafters one days. I think that would be your ultimate goal.”

Will that affect him in free agency next summer?

“Not at all,” Chandler said.

Chandler and the Mavericks are once again heading down this path. Dallas is a championship contender, and Chandler is on an expiring contract.

This time, though, Chandler is better than ever.

In his 14th season, he’s averaging 10.5 points on 66.9 percent shooting and 12.0 rebounds per game.

He’s having a career year by PER (20.8):

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…win shares per 48 minutes (.228):

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…and the eye test.

Asked how Chandler has changed since coaching him four years ago, Rick Carlisle responded quickly.

‘He’s better this time around,” Carlisle said

“He’s a smarter player, because he’s more experienced,” Carlisle continued. “His skill set is better. His overall knowledge of the game is better. He was always a good paint controller, but he communicates better. So, he’s gotten better as he’s gotten more experience, and we’re fortunate to have him back.”

It’s unlikely Chandler – who spent five seasons in Chicago, three in New Orleans/Oklahoma City, one in Charlotte, one in Dallas, and three in New York before returning to the Mavericks – stuck anywhere long enough to get his jersey retired. But if he has a chance anywhere, it’s Dallas.

Though Chandler has spent only one full season with the Mavericks, he was the second-best player on a championship team. Dallas, which entered the NBA in 1980, also has just two retired jerseys – 15 (Brad Davis) and 22 (Rolando Blackman).

So, there ‘s room for more numbers in rafters – beyond Nowitzki’s 41, a lock – if this era remains successful.

Chandler, reenergized playing with a contender, believes the Mavericks have the ingredients to go far. Though every player but Nowitzki has changed since 2011, Chandler is frequently and pleasantly reminded about his experience in 2011, when he said the Mavericks had “special locker room.”

Did he ever experience anything like that with the Knicks?

“No,” Chandler said. “ We never quite jelled. We worked at it, and it wasn’t that it wasn’t good guys. It was just, for whatever reason, we never meshed that way.”

Is Dallas’ locker room now special?

“This is,” Chandler said. “It’s incredible guys here. I love them. I wouldn’t choose a different group. I love coming to work every single day with them and growing with them.”

In some ways, it’s funny to hear Chandler talking about growing after all these years. He’s at a point many players, especially big men, are fading.

But he also entered the league straight from high school, meaning he has more pro experience than his age suggests.

“I’m still young,” said Chandler, 32. “I still feel great. I still feel like I’ve got a lot of years in this league to bring the same type of energy and enthusiasm. When that goes, I think I’m going to go, because it’s such a huge part of my game, and I love playing that way. So, I think when I lose that passion and desire is when it will be time for me to step away.”

Until then, it’s clear he and the Mavericks have a good thing going.

But soon enough, the question again becomes: How long will it last?

Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo go off for 32 points, 13 boards, lead Bucks rout of Thunder

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 13 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks surged to a 24-point lead in the second quarter in a 133-86 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

The 47-point loss was the Thunder’s worst of the season.

Chris Paul scored 18 points for Oklahoma City.

Both teams were without their second-leading scorers. Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton was a late scratch with a sore neck. An ankle injury kept Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari out.

The Bucks had won four in a row and the Thunder had won five straight.

The Bucks built their second-quarter lead behind 14 second-quarter points from Antetokounmpo, seven from Donte DiVincenzo, who started in place of Middleton, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Wesley Matthews.

A key moment occurred late in the second period.

With Milwaukee leading, 54-43, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer got a technical foul after approaching a referee during a timeout with 3:43 left in the quarter. That was moments after Eric Bledsoe was called for a charging foul that irked Budenholzer. After that, the Bucks went on a 17-4 run and led 71-47 at halftime.

Milwaukee outrebounded Oklahoma City, 67-36.

The Bucks made a season-high 21 3-pointers. The Thunder were 6 for 35 on 3-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo shrugs off James Harden dig: ‘I’m just trying to do my job’

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There is some meat to the James Harden/Giannis Antetokounmpo beef.

Harden was pissed Antetokounmpo won Most Valuable Player over him last year and vented about it. When it came to this year’s All-Star Game, captian Antetokounmpo drafted Kemba Walker over Harden while joking he wanted someone who’d pass. After his team lost the All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo said his team’s strategy was to get the ball to whomever Harden was guarding and attack.

Harden ramped up the skirmish of words Friday when speaking to Rachel Nichols of ESPN, saying:

“I wish I could just run, run and was 7-feet and run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all. I’ve got to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill.”

Antetokounmpo decided to let it die when ESPN asked pregame about what Harden said.

“I’m not the type of guy to take stabs at somebody. … I’m just trying to do my job which is win games and go back home to my family. At the end of the day, if that’s what he believes that’s what he believes. I can’t say anything about it. I’ve just got to keep being focused.”

If you’re circling dates on your calendar, March 25 is what you’re looking for, the day the Bucks host the Rockets.

Harden should believe he is the best player in the game — you don’t get to be where he is without that level of confidence. Antetokounmpo should believe the same thing about himself. We could say the same things about LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and a host of others. It’s part of what makes them great, and not a surprise.

If the MVP thing is eating at Harden he might not like this season’s outcome any better. While I haven’t done a poll, most voters I’ve spoken to have The Beard third behind Antetokounmpo and LeBron James. There’s still more than six weeks of basketball before votes are cast — and the Rockets as a team are surging — but right now, the Greek Freak looks like a repeat winner from what I am hearing.

Rockets protested game despite Tilman Fertitta’s dissent

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta talks big about his devotion to winning.

But when Houston had a chance to turn a loss into a victory by protesting due to an uncounted James Harden dunk, Fertitta balked.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“That’s my basketball people who got mad at ’em. Honestly, I don’t think we should have filed the protest because honestly we blew the 22-point lead. But if something is important to my players and basketball ops people, I give them a lot of leeway.”

I wonder whether Fertitta would have publicly shared his stance if the protest succeeded. I also wonder whether how supported Fertitta’s basketball employees feel considering he’s publicly revealing that he wasn’t on their side.

But this is actually one of the more encouraging stories of Fertitta’s ownership. He allowed room for debate. He listened to the other side. He posted the $10,000 protest fee.

It didn’t pay off this time, but that’s how good owners operate.

As expected, Rockets sign veteran Jeff Green for remainder of season

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Before they committed fully, Houston signed free agent Jeff Green to a 10-day contract. They just wanted to make sure the veteran forward was a fit in their small-ball system.

It turns out, he was a perfect fit.

Through four games, playing a little more than 19 minutes a game, Green averaged 9.8 points a game on a ridiculous 89.6 true shooting percentage. That’s not sustainable (he’s shooting 61.5 percent from three), but it was enough for the Rockets to sign Green for the remainder of the season, something the team announced Friday.

Green, at 6’8″, played on the wing most of his career. However, with the Rockets he backs up P.J. Tucker at center.

Green started the season a member of the Utah Jazz, but the fit there was not as clean. While he averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances, the Jazz ultimately waived him to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker.

This contract only runs through the end of this season, but the Rockets could re-sign Green for next season, if the sides agree this summer. For now, the focus is on the Rockets’ hot streak and building on that as the league moves toward the postseason.