As far as coach Rick Carlisle is concerned, Chandler looks just like the springy 28-year-old big man who played such a critical role in the Mavs’ title campaign during his previous stint in Dallas.
“Looks pretty similar to me,” said Carlisle, who will carefully manage Chandler’s minutes in an attempt to keep him as fresh as possible, as was the case in 2010-11. “He’s taken great care of himself. He’s in good shape and he’s going to be in great shape shortly. I don’t see any decline in enthusiasm or energy.”
That surely would draw some scoffs in New York, where Knicks fans would note that Chandler missed 27 games last season and had his production slip. Some might go so far as to call Chandler damaged goods.
Then again, that was the label on Chandler the first time the Mavs traded for him. He had missed 68 games over the previous two seasons due to toe and ankle injuries. During his lone season in Charlotte, Chandler posted his worst numbers since he was a teenage rookie.
Things worked out pretty well once Chandler arrived in Dallas, where he was rejuvenated by playing for a contender and benefited from the supervision of the Mavs’ world-class medical staff.
That’s the kind of bounce-back campaign the Mavs expect to get out of Chandler, who started training much earlier than usual this summer because he was so disappointed with last season. He also changed the way he trained after focusing the last few years on building muscle mass. He feels like the 28-year-old version of himself.
“This year I wanted to get back to mobility, athleticism, quickness, all of that of being explosive with strength,” Chandler said. “Not just trying to build up my mass. I wanted to be wiry strong. I was so much of that naturally in the past and I got so focused on trying to get bigger and stronger and all that stuff. And I’m like, let me go back to what works great.”
That’s what the Mavs did when they acquired Chandler in the six-player deal with the Knicks, but that decision certainly wasn’t based purely on his glorious history with the franchise. His 12-point, 12-rebound, two-block effort against the Mavs in February – part of a streak of 11-straight double-digit rebounding performances – left another strong impression in the Dallas decision-makers’ minds.
That’s the big man the Mavs so fondly remember. And it’s the center they’ve seen so far during training camp.