Tyson Chandler, Mavs' middle start fresh

How badly do you think Mark Cuban would like to hear center Tyson Chandler say this in mid-June:

"This is unbelievable. We came together. Nobody knew what to expect. Nobody really thought we would be here.

We fought together. We became actually a defensive team. We stuck with that. We stuck to our principles and now we're champions."

That was Chandler Sunday after Team USA defeated host Turkey and went a perfect 9-0 to win gold at the FIBA World Championships.

Chandler will now join his new team, the Dallas Mavericks in two weeks for the start of training camp. The Mavs' roster remains mostly unchanged from a season ago that ended so disappointingly in the first round for a third time in four seasons.

The one change is the 7-foot-1 Chandler, coming off two difficult seasons ruined by injury, replacing Erick Dampier.

"We lose some ruggedness and some of the little bit of the physical aspect that Damp brought us, but we gain athleticism and youth," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We feel it was the right move for us and we're excited."

Chandler played a minimal role on Team USA, surrendering his early starting job to Lamar Odom. Chandler played well when he was in, averaging 8.6 minutes a game, 2.6 points on 64.3 percent shooting, 2.7 rebounds (12 offensive and 12 defensive) and barely more than half-a-block a game. Somewhat troubling was his 16 total fouls, tying for fourth on the team despite his limited floor time.

He'll come to Dallas as a backup to Brendan Haywood, a duo that doesn't really scare anyone in the post with back-to-the-basket moves, but the tandem is being billed by the Mavs as a defensive improvement -- for a team whose identity has rarely if ever revolved around defense -- especially against teams with big front lines such as Odom's two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

However, if Chandler can stay healthy, Jason Kidd just might find more scoring opportunities down low. Running the floor, catching and finishing weren't exactly Dampier's best assets.

"Both guys are very capable runners of the floor and that's important when you have Jason as your point guard or Roddy [Roddy Beaubois] or Barea [J.J Barea] or whoever's out there," Carlisle said. "That's an area where you can get one or two easy buckets a game if your bigs can really run. Athleticism and running ability are priorities for us, at every position, and when you make a gain at the center position that's significant."

Chandler didn't have as big an impact on Team USA as maybe first thought. We'll see, now that he's healthy and happy, if he can bring his 2008 form to Dallas, a scenario that Kidd, Cuban and the Mavs would be thrilled to see.