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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?

Bucks GM Horst says keeping Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez was summer priority

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Milwaukee made the leap last year — won 60 games last season, had the MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, was top five in offense and defense, reached the conference finals, and became a serious title contender. It was an amazing season and run, one that earned GM Jon Horst Executive of the Year honors, as voted by his peers.

But a GM’s job is never done.

The Bucks went into the summer with three starters as free agents and a lot of questions about keeping the roster together. Milwaukee retained two of those starters — Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez — and those two were the top priorities, Horst told Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

Khris was always a focus… He’s our second superstar, our second star. He’s an All-Star. He’s been one of our best players for a long period of time here. Fits our culture, fits our style of play, fits our aging curve. He’s become a leader of our team. For us, we want to try to recruit with him and play the culture fit, winning. Create an environment he wanted to play in for a long, long time. A place where his family is happy with Sam and the baby and everything…

When we got Brook last offseason, we understood, at some level, how important he was going to be to us and how important he was going to be and what the value was going to be. We also understood if he’s as good as we think he’s going to be, it’s going to present a lot of challenges.

The challenges Horst is referring to are about money. The Bucks got Lopez on a one-year steal of a contract at $3.4 million, but he played his way into an eight-figure salary. Keeping Lopez meant roster changes were needed to create cap room.

The ultimate upshot of that is Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic are no longer with the team. The Bucks could have matched the four-year, $85 million offer Indiana put on the table for Brogdon, but doing so would have put them deep into the luxury tax and tied their hands in other ways. The Bucks signed Wesley Matthews as a stopgap instead.

Malcolm is very, very important and we knew how important he was to our team. It will be hard to replace him. I think we’ve done the best that we can and we’ll continue to work in ways to be creative and fill that gap.

Horsts’ moves this summer should keep the Bucks as title contenders next season, they head into the season as the favorites in the East.

That’s not the biggest question facing Milwaukee, however. That is: Did the moves keep Antetokounmpo happy? Next summer he can be offered a super-max contract extension to stay with the Bucks through his prime, if he turns it down the Bucks have to consider trading him. Will Antetokounmpo take the money? Every move Horst made this summer needed to bring Antetokounmpo closer to answering yes to that question.

We’ll see how it went in a year.

Chris Paul says players don’t really talk about money in locker room

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Locker room banter flies all over the conversational map: Clubs/restaurants to first cars to rappers to Fortnite to why Player X never has any lotion and always has to borrow someone else’s.

What doesn’t come up? Money.

That according to Chris Paul, who should know after 14 years in the league and now serving as the players’ union president. He was talking about his campaign to help players become more financially aware and said this to Clevis Murray of The Athletic.

“I think the reason why I’m so passionate about this is because I’m finishing up my 14th year in the NBA, and I’ve been around long enough to realize that guys in our league, we talk about everything in the locker room except for finance, except for money,” he said. “Nobody talks about money, because it’s one of those uncomfortable things.”

It’s a strange dynamic in an NBA locker room because everybody knows what everybody else makes, it’s very public, and that provides a certain measuring stick of worth.

Yet how does one player tell another “man, your entourage is too big, you’re blowing your money.” Players finally making money understandably want to take care of family and close friends, but other people come into their life and things can spiral fast. CP3 says he gets it, and he is working with Joe Smith — who made $60 million in NBA earnings and lost all of it — to help prepare rookies.

The stories of NBA players blowing through their money absolutely happen, but they also are not the majority, and the numbers are shrinking. More and more players are learning to be smarter with their money and set themselves up on some level for life after basketball. Not all, but guys who stick in the league a few years tend to learn. If Paul and the union can come up with ways to reach players at an earlier age and prepare them for what is to come, all the better.

Bobby Portis says watch out for underrated Knicks, they could make playoffs

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You don’t want a player on your team that heads into the season thinking, “we suck, I just hope we can get to 20 wins and not be embarrassed every night.” Even if that might be the reality for that roster.

Enter Bobby Portis of the New York Knicks. The Wizards let him walk to save money and he has ended up on a Knicks team with a lot of guys who see themselves as underrated: Elfrid Payton, Marcus Morris, and Julius Randle. Plus New York has young players with a lot to prove — especially after Summer League — in Kevin Knox, R.J. Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson.

Portis likes this underdog team, he told Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.

I love being underrated, man. I’m an underdog. I say that every day. We’re the team that’s being counted out right now. People are looking past us. They’re talking about stars going to new teams and this and that, and that’s okay. Everybody on this team has a huge chip on their shoulder. We’re the guys who are always picked second. I think that’s going to make us close. Our practices are going to be top-notch; we’re all going to be competing and that’s going to make us better. We have a lot of dogs on this team, which will help us out as well. Collectively, we all have a chip on our shoulder – a log on our shoulder – so we’re going to go out there and play with an edge. I think that’s great for us.

So… playoffs?

Yeah, for sure, for sure. The naysayers, the haters, the people who are doubting us will say that we’re crazy as hell for saying that. But we have a bunch of guys who are coming in each and every day with that log on their shoulder and that’s going to push us to become a great team. We have a lot of pieces who can play. I think we’re loaded at every position; there are two-to-three players who could start at every position. When you have that much talent, that rises the competitiveness and improves the team as a whole.

That is exactly the attitude you want to see heading into the season.

The Knicks are going to struggle this year, talent wins out in the NBA and the Knicks don’t have enough of it. However, if the goal is to build a culture of gritty players who go play all out and are tough to play against — the cultures the Nets and Clippers developed that drew stars to them — the Knicks are on a decent road. New York didn’t pull a classic Knicks this year and overspend on a couple of second-tier stars when they struck out on the big guns, they went out and got decent players on short contracts. Stay flexible, build a culture.

We’ll see if Portis will be part of that going forward, but he has the right attitude.

Report: Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.

Big-market teams are licking their chops.

That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.

Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.

It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.