In my interview with Chandler (posted now), he openly discussed his outlook toward free agency. It is the first time the 7-foot-1 center has been a free agent in his 10-year career, and he seems determined to explore all of his opportunities.
If the Mavs have an edge it certainly starts with the impact he made in his first season, helping the franchise snap a gut-wrenching five-year run of regular-season success and postseason despair. Chandler brought a tough love approach to a club that had been missing such a dominant voice. He has been praised from owner Mark Cuban to coach Rick Carlisle to star Dirk Nowitzki for bringing an edge that greatly defined the team and their title season.
If the Mavs have an edge in re-signing the big man, it starts with his affection for his teammates and vice-versa.
"With the credit that I give myself, I have to give more to my teammates," Chandler said. "I don’t care how much I could have chastised them, try to motivate them, rah-rah screaming, whatever you want to call it, if they weren’t willing to buy in and sacrifice different things than their own personal goals and buying into a team concept, it wouldn’t have worked. I give all the credit in the world to my teammates. I had a wonderful group of teammates this year and we were able to accomplish something special, and because of that we’ll forever be linked as brothers."
Another advantage just might be the combination of the city, the people and the fans.
It didn't take long for Chandler to shoulder the weight of a fan base that had become numb to regular-season victories and cynical of postseason triumph. Chandler said one encounter just prior to the playoffs stuck with him throughout the run as a symbol of the reigning attitude among both MFFLs and casual fans.
Here's how Chandler recalled it:
"I walked into a kids clothing store and she (the sales clerk) didn’t recognize me, didn’t know who I was. She was like, 'Wow, you’re extremely tall.' I said, 'Yeah, I get that often.' She was like, 'You should play for the Mavericks. They could really use someone like you.' I said, 'Really, I’m not from around here. How are they?' She said, 'They always do good until it's playoff time, so this should be around the time they start to fold,'" Chandler said.
"I’m dying laughing inside and I mean just that stuff, she was a symbol of how the city felt and I wanted to do anything in my power not to fail, and that’s for the people of Dallas. I felt that. I felt all that pressure of everybody thinking we’re going to get knocked out of the first round. And then, 'OK, the Lakers, at least they made it to the defending champs. If they bow out now it’s OK.' And when we got past them people didn’t think we could muster it up to get past the young gunners [Oklahoma City]. Then after that we all know a bunch of people had picked against us against the Big 3 [Miami's Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh], although they wanted us to win, but I don’t think they necessarily believed in us."
Will the Mavs ultimately re-sign the best center ever paired with Nowitzki? It will take the end of the lockout for those discussions to really begin.