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Mavs need to fill Tyson Chandler leadership void

DALLAS – Tyson Chandler almost averaged a double-double during his lone season in Dallas and was the backbone of a vastly improved defense.

However, it can be argued that Chandler’s biggest impact on the Mavs’ championship season couldn’t be measured by any statistics. He was the unquestioned, in-your-face leader when the Mavs needed that guy to emerge in the locker room.

The Mavs miss that presence at the moment, having lost five of six games while dealing with the distraction of the Lamar Odom saga.

So who will step up to fill the void of Chandler’s intangible intensity and willingness to get in a teammate’s grill?

“I try sometimes,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “Sometimes I worry about my own game too much instead of just getting everybody going. But Tyson was great at that. He got in people’s faces. He didn’t care who it was.

“I think we’ve got to do it by committee. We’ve got some leaders here in [Jason] Kidd and myself, Jet sometimes speaks up, [Shawn Marion] sometimes has stuff to say, [Brendan Haywood] actually addressed something the other day. We’ve got to get it done by committee.”

Jason Terry didn’t hesitate to name the man he considers the Mavs’ best butt-kicker in the locker room, and the guy he pointed to might surprise you.

“Delonte West is that guy for us, and he’s hurt right now so we try to do it collectively,” Terry said. “It’s not the character of some of our guys. It just is what it is.”

Delonte West? A newcomer with a minimum contract is the guy who gets in teammates’ faces on a team defending its title?

“He’s one of the toughest guys pound per pound in the league,” Terry said. “Now, you can look at Jason Kidd the same way, but you’ve got to piss him off first. [West] comes in fists flying and he’s ready. You don’t have to rev him up. He’s ready from the get-go.”

West isn’t ready to play right now, though, sidelined with a fractured right ring finger for probably another two or three weeks. Chandler is wearing a Knicks uniform.

The Mavs need a leader – or leaders – to step up in the meantime.