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Cuban admits mistake on Chandler? Kind of

DALLAS – The first question a fan asked at the press conference/pep rally held Tuesday by the Dallas Mavericks was directed to Tyson Chandler, but Mark Cuban provided the answer.

“Let’s just say I learn from my mistakes,” Cuban said, replying to an inquiry about whether the big man’s second stay in Dallas would last longer than one season.

Cuban’s choice to allow Chandler to leave in free agency after the Mavs’ lone championship season will always be one of the most controversial decisions in Dallas sports history.

As Cuban explained at the time and over and over again, he declined to make a multi-year offer to Chandler after the lockout because he believed the new collective bargaining agreement put a premium on financial flexibility.

The fear was that the Mavs wouldn’t be able to make upgrades as an aging roster deteriorated if they kept the title team together. The hope was the Mavs could use their ample salary-cap space to sign a superstar.

Well, Father Time did catch up with most of the key cogs from that title team, with many of the Mavs’ champions either retired or playing much lesser roles for other teams. But the Mavs’ front office never did hook the perennial All-Star big fish in free agency.

The Mavs have made some significant upgrades in the last two summers, including getting Chandler back in a six-player deal with the New York Knicks, just in time for the final season of his four-year, $56 million deal.

So it was a mistake to let him go in the first place, huh?

“Obviously it would have been better if we could have kept him, right?” Cuban said after leaving the stage. “But our hand was dealt with all the changes. All’s well that ends well. I think it turned out just the way we wanted, just the way I planned.”

The Mavs probably planned to mix in a playoff series win or two during Chandler’s time in New York, but no need to nitpick.

One thing that’s unquestionably true is that Chandler and the Mavs are mutually elated to be together again.

Will the best big man in Mavs history actually stick around for more than one season in his second Dallas stint? That’s a question that won’t be answered until next summer, when Chandler’s contract coming off the books gives the Mavs the flexibility to be aggressive in free agency again.

“I’ll leave that up to them again,” Chandler said. “That was out of my control. It’s going to be out of my control this time around. The only thing I can do is produce on the floor.”

It'll be Cuban's call. It's safe to assume he knows how the Mavs' fan base feels.