DALLAS -- There wasn’t much pomp and circumstance surrounding the Mavericks’ acquisition of Tyson Chandler.
His introductory press conference didn’t feature fog machines and choreographed dance routines. It wasn’t a nationally televised event.
“I’m glad, because I would feel uncomfortable doing all that stuff,” said Chandler, whose first meeting with the Dallas media was an informal chat in an American Airlines Center hallway. “I don’t want all that.”
A lot of Mavs fans didn’t want Chandler. After all, there had been so much discussion about the Mavs possibly using Erick Dampier’s instantly expiring contract in a sign-and-trade for a big fish in free agency.
The arrival of a big man who had never been an All-Star and had been hobbled the previous two seasons didn’t exactly match the hype of LeBron James and Chris Bosh strutting their way to South Beach. But, believe it or not, Chandler has made a more positive impact for the Mavs than either of Miami’s much more decorated newcomers has for the Heat.
It wasn’t even close Saturday night, when Chandler set the tone for the Mavs in a 106-95 win over the Heat that resulted in a lengthy postgame players-only meeting in the visitors’ locker room, probably trying to figure out why the so-called SuperFriends mesh like a multimillion-dollar AAU team.
Chandler, an athletic, unselfish big man who is close to a perfect complement for Dirk Nowitzki, has blended in beautifully with the Mavs. He does all the dirty work that Dampier did -- and he can actually catch and finish, run the floor, knock down an occasional jump shot, defend finesse big men like Bosh, etc.
A quick glance at the box score shows that Chandler was a major contributor in the Mavs’ fifth consecutive win. He scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, snatched a game-high 17 rebounds and swatted three shots. He was so good that it didn’t matter that backup center Brendan Haywood (no points, two rebounds, four fouls in 7:58) was a nonfactor after serving a one-game suspension.
“We played four games in five nights, so I knew my team would need my energy,” said Chandler, who had nine points and seven rebounds in the first quarter. “I wanted to make it a point to come out early in the game and kind of set the tone and the pace of the game, and I felt like my team really got behind me.”
Maybe it was symbolic that ex-Mav Dampier, who signed with the Heat this week, left the arena with an action photo of him that had hung in the AAC. It’s only taken Chandler about a month to make Mavs fans forget all about the big man who started for most of the last six seasons in Dallas.
It’s not like this was a stunning performance by Chandler. In fact, it wasn’t even his most impressive line of the week.
“He’s key for us every night,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s become the heart and soul of our defense.”
He’s the guts of that defense, too.
For example, consider perhaps the most important play Chandler made all game, one that doesn’t show up in a box score. The Heat had clawed back into the game when Chandler stepped in front of King James, who has a linebacker’s physique, to take a charge with a little less than three minutes remaining.
It was the ultimate glue-guy play, an example of a guy willing to sacrifice to help his team win. Chandler doesn’t need to be glitzy and glamorous to make his presence felt.