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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?

Jerry West on NBA Draft: “I don’t know how you could pass Zion Williamson”

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A rumor started buzzing around NBA Twitter last week, a second-hand report that NBA legend and Clippers’ consultant Jerry West was praising Murray State guard Ja Morant, saying he would take him in front of the presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

The source of that rumor: comedian Jeff Garlin, saying it on the Dan Patrick Show.

Jerry West himself went on the Dan Patrick show Thursday and shot that down saying “it Would Be Like Passing Jordan in the draft.”

Two players were picked in front Jordan in the 1984 Draft. The Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon, and while Jordan went on to be Jordan nobody can fault the Rockets for how this picked turned out — two titles and a Hall of Fame big man in your organization is an amazing draft.

The one everyone talks about was Portland at No. 2, when executive Stu Inman and coach Jack Ramsey decided they were set on the wing in Clyde Drexler and needed a big man, so they selected Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. Bowie might have had an excellent NBA career if injuries had not plagued him, but he was no Jordan. It’s the ultimate NBA cautionary tale — draft the best player on the board, not according to need.

Williamson is projected by teams as the best player on the board. By far. Even the Morant fans have him a clear second. Plus, Williamson comes in hugely popular and a brand unto himself — he will sell tickets and sponsorships. Not drafting him would be a stupid business decision, not to mention a basketball one.

Whoever lands second in next month’s draft lottery will do well with Morant. Whoever is third will likely get R.J. Barrett out of Duke and… let’s just say that’s where it gets interesting.

Likely top-10 pick Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech makes it official, declares for NBA Draft

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We all knew this was coming, but on Thursday he made it official:

Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver is declaring for the NBA Draft, where he is expected to be a top-10 pick. He made the announcement at a rally on the Tech campus Thursday, then took his message to social media.

Culver, a 6’6” wing player, passes the eye test for an NBA wing, he can shoot from the outside (he only hit 30.4 percent from three this season, but it was 38 percent the season before and his stroke looks good), he can put the ball on the floor and get inside, and he may have the best feel for the game of any wing prospect in this draft. The only question is athleticism — he’s not a classically explosive, and the NBA is loaded with freak athletes on the wing.

Still, Culvert looks like a rotation wing player with the potential to be more, and that should land him comfortably in the top 10 in this draft (likely 5-8).

Nuggets take 13-game losing streak in San Antonio into Game 3

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In 2009, Carlos Boozer had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Jazz’s win over the Spurs. Paul Millsap backed him up.

A couple months later, Boozer had 31-13 in another Jazz win over the Spurs. Again, Millsap backed him up.

Late in the 2012-13 season, rookie Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers to a blowout of the Spurs. Will Barton played three minutes in garbage time.

Those are the only three times current Nuggets starters have won in San Antonio.

After splitting the first two games of their first-round series in Denver, the Nuggets must win at least once in San Antonio to advance. The first opportunity comes in Game 3 tonight.

Denver has lost 13 straight road games against the Spurs – a drought longer than the careers of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The Nuggets’ other starters didn’t fare much better before joining Denver. Barton went 1-5 in San Antonio with Portland. Millsap went 2-20 in San Antonio with Utah and Atlanta.

Even several notches below their dynasty status, the Spurs remain especially tough at home.

The Spurs went 32-9 at home and 16-25 on the road this season. Maybe that’s an aberration in a limited sample. But they also went 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road last season.

That’s a 79% win percentage at home and 37% on the road. The last time a team had such a large disparity over a two-year span was the 2008-2009 Jazz.

This might just be San Antonio’s post-Kawhi Leonard identity.

Here are the largest home-road win percentage differences in the last decade:

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There’s another possibility: It’s not that the Spurs are that good at home. It’s that they’re that bad on the road.

But San Antonio trailed only the Nuggets, Bucks and Raptors in home record this season.

The Spurs also won Game 1 in Denver, where the altitude has historically given the Nuggets a strong homecourt advantage. If Denver dropped that game to a lousy road team, that’d be its own problem.

Either way, the Nuggets have a real challenge on their hands.

Kevin Porter Jr. a possible lottery pick heading into 2019 NBA draft

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Kevin Porter Jr. missed more than a quarter of his freshman season at USC due to injury. He missed another couple games due to suspension. When he played, he usually came off the bench. He’s only 18.

But Porter has already shown enough to impress NBA teams.

Porter, via Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

“I will be declaring for the 2019 NBA draft and I will be signing with Roc Nation Sports,” Porter told ESPN.

Porter has a wide possible range in the first round, because there’s a massive gap between his ceiling and floor. But it shouldn’t take too long for a team to bet on his upside.

A 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Porter has a special combination of shiftiness and power with the ball in his hands. He can attack the rim and finish above it. He can also pull up for jumpers.

I don’t trust his 41% 3-point shooting at USC. That came on only 68 attempts, and he made just 52% of his free throws (though that was also on an unreliably small sample, just 46 attempts). But his stroke looks compact and smooth.

Porter can be an impressive passer. Right now, that’s more so making quick and correct standstill reads than distributing while driving.

If he improves his handle, that could really tie together all his skills.

Porter forces too many bad shots. He’s not attentive enough defensively. There are questions about his maturity.

But if he pans out at the next level, he could be awesome.