DALLAS -- It’s probably premature to stir up a starting center controversy. After all, we’ve seen only one preseason game.
But Tyson Chandler looked pretty darn good in the Mavs’ 97-94 loss to John Wall’s Wizards.
The Mavs made it a game with a 14-0 run during garbage time. The high-flying 7-footer was by far the home team’s biggest bright spot when rotation players were on the court.
After two injury-marred seasons, Chandler is completely healthy again. He looked a lot like the dude who averaged a double-double for the Hornets in 2007-08 during his debut in a Mavs uniform. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting (including one oooh-inducing alley-oop), nine rebounds and two blocked shots in 17 minutes.
“I loved Chandler tonight, and I’ve loved him every day of training camp,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s really bringing not only energy, but he’s bringing some vocal leadership and personality to our team, which we need. He’s a very, very welcome addition.”
The plan is to start Brendan Haywood and bring Chandler off the bench. Haywood was assured by Carlisle during the free agency recruiting process that he’d be a starter, as the roster was constructed at the time. That was before the Mavs swapped Erick Dampier’s nonguaranteed deal and spare parts for Chandler and spare 7-footer Alexis Ajinca.
Haywood (seven points, three rebounds and one block in 19 minutes) didn’t exactly make a strong case to remain the starter in the preseason opener. However, Carlisle said Tuesday morning that it’s Haywood’s job to lose, although he stressed that center will be a tandem position.
When asked after the game about the competitive situation at center, Carlisle pointed out that Chandler and Haywood have different games, with Chandler’s strengths being easier for the common man to see. Carlisle said Haywood started slow but had some “better moments” later in the game. The Mavs were outscored by 14 points with Haywood on the floor.
“I would want to look at the film before I trash anybody,” Carlisle said. “I think that’s fair.”
Chandler, who has become friends with his former Eastern Conference rival Haywood, isn’t forcing the issue. He’s fine with coming off the bench.
“Whatever it is, whatever you need to bring night in and night out, we’ve all just got to buy into that,” Chandler said. “I need to bring energy. I need to get after there and go after every layup, every shot block, contest everything and get out and run.
“If I bring that consistently, I feel like every night we’re going to have a chance to win.”
If he brings that every night, it’ll become increasingly tougher to keep him on the bench.