DALLAS -- It didn't take long in the preseason for coach Rick Carlisle to decide that he wanted Tyson Chandler as his starting center.
The 7-foot-1 center who is coming back from two years of injury problems showed why Carlisle is enamored with him in Monday's 89-87 victory over the Boston Celtics. Chandler recorded his first double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Through six games, he might already go down as the most vocal and intense player the Dallas Mavericks have acquired in recent memory.
"This guy is becoming one of our heart and soul guys," Carlisle said after Monday's win. "He really brings a spirit, a toughness and an energy. And you know, he was huge tonight, but he has been really important for us all season."
Chandler set an aggressive tone early against Boston with aggressive defense and pulling down seven of the team's 10 rebounds in the first quarter. He finished the first half with 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting -- on mostly dunks -- and nine boards.
One of his more spectacular plays of the game came with 2:30 remaining in the first half. Dirk Nowitzki drove the lane, but his layup rolled off the front of the rim. Unimpeded, Chandler cleaned it up with a ferocious two-handed slam.
Chandler took advantage early of a Boston lineup that was without injured centers Kendrick Perkins and Shaquille O'Neal, and Jermaine O'Neal played just 11 minutes before leaving in the first half with left knee bruise. It was a strong statement after he scored just three points in Saturday's loss to a Denver team with a depleted frontcourt.
And it was one of the signs Carlisle saw in the preseason that pushed him to start Chandler over Brendan Haywood, who signed a big-money free-agent contract with the Mavs over the summer.
"That last loss [to Denver] hurt. I was up until four in the morning or something like that just staring at the ceiling, just recapping the entire game," Chandler said. "I was frustrated. It's one thing to talk about what you want to do and this and that, but I wanted to come out and lift my team with my play and try to energize them."