New center tandem likes the company

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas --When LeBron James made 'The Decision," he also made it for Brendan Haywood.

"I had to take at least a little notice when Pat Riley came to Charlotte. That kind of got my attention a little bit," Haywood said of the Miami Heat president's visit to his home during the first few days of free agency. "They were very interested. We were talking the whole time."

The whole time that did not include James as a member of the Heat. When Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh committed to the Heat, the club could have made a handsome offer to Haywood. That is, as long as James was out of the picture. That, of course, quickly changed. Once James signed on, Miami no longer had the financial capability to pay Haywood anywhere close to the six-year, $55-million deal he finalized soon after with the Mavs.

"I don't think anybody knew," Haywood said regarding whether the Heat would sign James at the time. "I don't think LeBron himself knew. I don't think he had this planned the whole time. I think it was one of those things that over time they knew they were going to get two big guys, whether it be D-Wade and Bosh or whoever, they knew they were going to get two. nd And when three came along they got him."

The Mavs were thankful to get the 7-footer signed. Then they doubled their pleasure by trading for 7-1 center Tyson Chandler and cut ties with aging center Erick Dampier to usher in an all-new era of the center tandem in Dallas.

"I'm happy to be here," Haywood said. "I like the guys, I like the team. This team is just one of the best teams as far as not talent, but just personnel, how everybody gets along and cheers for each other. That’s one of the things I haven’t experienced in a long time and I really enjoy it."

Chandler is happy to be in Dallas, too. He's had two rough years dealing with injuries and although his former team, the Charlotte Bobcats, made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, the Mavsare veteran team with a belief that they can contend in the Western Conference.

The Haywood-Chandler tandem gives the Mavs an unusual pairing of 7-footers at a time when many teams are searching for one serviceable center. Haywood is wider and more physical. Chandler is more athletic, more capable of running the floor and making splashy plays above the rim.

"They both bring a little something different that we need, so it's a tag team," Carlisle said. 'Between them, they've got to get the job done at our center spot."

Both have said they're eager to play on the same team and that they can and will co-exist even though they've traded a few elbows in the past as competitors, including a heated scuffle in 2005 in which Chandler, with Chicago at the time, was ejected from the game.

"Normally big guys don't really like each other. You know, it gets physical down there," Chandler said. "I was excited for the opportunity to play with a guy like Brendan, even though we've had our battles. He's always been a guy I've respected because he always brings defensive intensity and he shows up every night.

"I've never had a guy like that on my team. And I think with us being together, coach is going to have a lot of options and opportunities to play us in different positions and play us at different times, depending on the matchup."

Said Haywood: "He's more of that athletic, energy, up and down the court, catch-a-lob-out-of-nowhere type, get-the- crowd-excited type of basketball player. I think we bring different dynamics, but both are needed on this team to be successful."

The Mavs believe the center tandem does give them two dynamic 7-footers that provide different skills andabilities, giving them more options to defend teams such with big front lines such as the Los Angeles Lakers. There will be times when Chandler will spell Dirk Nowitzki and play power forward alongside Haywood in the middle.

Haywood said with Chandler coming off the bench, he can be more aggressive against some of the league's top centers such as Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard because he won't have to be concerned with fouls.

The duo could also be the highest scoring tandem the Mavs have had since they've employed a center rotation going back to Dampier and DeSagana Diop. Chandler has averaged 8.1 points over his career and reached double figures (11.8) during his best season three years ago playing with Chris Paul in New Orleans Hornets.

Haywood is a 7.7-point scorer over his career, but was at 9.8 points prior to be being traded to Dallas last February. Both players have good hands and can finish at the rim, qualities point guard Jason Kidd will try to make good use of.

"That possibility certainly exists," Carlisle said of the tandem's scoring potential. "But, that's not the reason to make the move. The reason to make the move was to address youth, dynamic athleticism and having guys with some unique individual abilities."

*Carlisle said he's been impressed with another 7-footer on the club, Alexis Ajinca, who came over from Charlotte in the Dampier trade that also netted Chandler. Ajinca has had two disappointing seasons in the NBA and he comes to Dallas as the fourth center behind free-agent signee Ian Mahinmi.

"He's been steady," Carlisle said. "He's a shooter. For a 7-foot guy, he’s going to make open shots from mid-range. He can even stretch it out a little further than that."

*The Mavs held one, 2 1/2-hour practice Wednesday at SMU. They'll practice twice Thursday and then again once on Friday to conclude the SMU portion of training camp. They open the preseason on Oct. 5 at home against Washington.