Dallas' Tyson Chandler continues to reinvent himself

By Darnell Mayberry, Staff writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Modified: June 8, 2011 at 9:23 pm •  Published: June 8, 2011
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DALLAS — Tyson Chandler figures it must have been about the money.

More than two years later, the big man who is now energizing the Dallas Mavericks still has no other explanation for why his services weren't welcomed on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I honestly feel it had more to do with the salary,” Chandler told The Oklahoman on Wednesday. “Because when I looked at it, it just didn't make sense.”

On Feb. 17, 2009, the Thunder traded Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox and the draft rights to DeVon Hardin to New Orleans in exchange for Chandler. Roughly 24 hours later, the deal was dead. The Thunder had pulled out, rescinding the trade because of health concerns. Chandler's problematic toe troubled the Thunder's medical staff.

“I just didn't see that being that big of an issue,” Chandler said. “It all seemed fishy to be honest with you.”

While the Mavs sit two wins shy of claiming their first NBA championship, Thunder fans are left wondering what if. Despite this year's trading deadline ultimately netting the Thunder another bona fide big man in Kendrick Perkins, it's become clear that Chandler is the center that got away.

On another team, Chandler is performing like the perfect match the Thunder thought it had obtained for its super young and supremely athletic stable of talent. In these playoffs, Chandler has forced Thunder fans to remember the regret they felt upon learning the deal was nixed. And the remorse level only rises with the passing of each series.

Chandler has increased his points, steals and blocked shot averages in each round of the playoffs. He's also gone from averaging 28.8 minutes against Portland in the opening round, to 31.3 minutes against the Lakers in the semifinals, to 31.8 minutes against the Thunder in the conference finals to 38.8 minutes against Miami in the finals.

In 74 regular season games this year, Chandler averaged 10.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and shot a career-high 65.4 percent in 27.8 minutes. It was his best season since 2007-08.

But the Mavs, led by deep pocket owner Mark Cuban, obtained Chandler as he was entering the final year of contract. He earned $12.75 million this season.

Had the Thunder gone through with the trade two years ago, the team would have been on the hook for the remainder of Chandler's $11.3 million salary in 2009, as well as his $11.8 million contract last season.

“We have to listen to the people (conducting) our medicals,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said after rescinding the trade. “We feel the right decision for us was to move in another direction. We're disappointed it did not work out.”



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