DALLAS – Tyson Chandler isn’t coming back to Dallas. Not until March 6, at least, and he’ll be wearing a New York Knicks uniform.
Coach Rick Carlisle mentioned Chandler and the rest of the departed free agents from last season’s title team during the Christmas Day banner-raising ceremony, but the Mavericks must move on without the best big man in franchise history.
That means Brendan Haywood better step up, which is sort of a sensitive subject for Carlisle, who was publicly protective of the big man when he was an overpaid, under-producing backup for most of last season.
“I think it's important to point this out and to be very clear about it: Brendan Haywood is not Tyson Chandler,” Carlisle said after the Miami Heat hammered the Mavs 105-94 in the season opener. “He's a different kind of player. And you're not going to see the same kinds of things out there as you did with Tyson.
“Brendan is effective for us. In the first half, he was one of our more effective players from a plus-minus standpoint by being on the floor and he was doing some good things.”
In the first half, Haywood had no points, two turnovers, three rebounds and three fouls in 11 minutes. He added another foul and no other stats in a few minutes in the second half.
You certainly can’t make the case that Haywood was the Mavs’ biggest problem in a game that was a blowout until garbage time. As Carlisle alluded to, the Heat outscored the Mavs by only six points with Haywood on the floor.
But the Mavs will need much more from the only established big man on the roster to have legitimate repeat hopes.
That’s not news to the 10-year veteran 7-footer.
“My personal expectations is to go in there and help this team win, try to be a force in the paint offensively and defensively,” Haywood said. “Obviously, that wasn’t the case tonight.”
The Mavs aren’t asking anything of Haywood that he hasn’t done before. He’s been a solid starting center for most of his career, which is why they gave him a five-year, $42 million contract last summer.
Haywood was averaging 9.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 32.9 minutes per game for the Washington Wizards in the 2009-10 season when the Mavs acquired in a multiplayer blockbuster trade. The Mavs would be thrilled with that kind of production.
Actually, the Mavs would be ecstatic if Haywood played as well as he did during their run through the Western Conference playoff bracket, when he served as the defensive backbone for the small-ball second unit.
Haywood didn’t get a lot of credit for his postseason contributions, floating under the radar as folks focused on many more glamorous stories during the Mavs’ amazing run. But the spotlight will shine brightly on the big man this season, for better or worse.
“You can’t worry about what anybody else is saying or trying to prove anything to anybody else,” Haywood said. “You’re trying to help your team. It’s about the guys in this locker room. It’s not about the outside world.”
Haywood, like most of the other guys in the locker room, didn’t help his team in the season opener. Yet his coach was encouraged by his performance, an indication of how much the standards have changed at center for the Mavs since Chandler left town.