Tyson Chandler: 'This team is close' to title

DALLAS -- Tyson Chandler, the finishing piece of a championship puzzle during his lone season in Dallas, doesn’t think the Mavericks are far from being legitimate contenders for another title.

For proof, Chandler points to the Mavs pushing the San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round, by far the biggest scare the eventual champions encountered in the playoffs.

“If you can challenge the champs like that and be a play or two away from actually advancing, that means you're close,” Chandler said. “So I think this team is close.”

Chandler’s checklist of elements the Mavs were missing just so happened to be strengths of his game. He mentioned rim protection, finishing at the basket and offensive rebounding as areas that the Mavs needed to improve.

Of course, Chandler fully expects to fill those voids during his second stint in Dallas, much like he did during the Mavs’ 2011 championship march.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Chandler said. “That was my role when I was there. Watching it in years past, I think it was lacking. My job is to be even better than I was the year that I had there. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to providing that and seeing what we can do.”

The Mavs felt that center Samuel Dalembert was a good value signing last summer, considering his $3.7 million salary a bargain in the second half of the season. However, the Dallas decision-makers entered the offseason determined to upgrade at the position and jumped at the chance to bring Chandler back while putting only a minor dent into this summer’s cap space while improving the team’s financial forecast in the near future.

Chandler, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year who has averaged at least 9.4 rebounds per game the past four seasons and annually ranks among the league’s field-goal percentage leaders, is certainly a significant upgrade at center.

The concern about Chandler is the same as it was the last time the Mavs traded for him: durability. The 74 games Chandler played during his season in Dallas are his most over the past six years, but the Mavs' outstanding medical and athletic training staff had something to do with that.

Dallas has a defensive backbone again, as well as another leader in the locker room.

“In terms of a team defender, it doesn’t get much better,” said Donnie Nelson, the Mavs' president of basketball operations. “He covers up a lot of sins out there in terms of guys getting beat and what-not.

"He’s really a perfect track mate in a lot of respects for Dirk [Nowitzki] and everyone across the board has become a better defender on the floor with the acquisition of Tyson. The coaching staff has gotten better and the management staff has certainly gotten a lot smarter.”

Added coach Rick Carlisle: “The guy is such an injection of enthusiasm and energy, and he’s such a good player. … It just sets up real well for our team. He complements Dirk extremely well. He’s a great runner, screener, rim protector. He just has that exuberant enthusiasm that’s infectious and it rubs off on everybody.”