Tyson Chandler brought respectable D to the offensively gifted Mavericks. The result: a title.
Dirk Nowitzki was the MVP of the Mavericks, the Finals, and by most accounts the NBA's best player in the entire playoffs.
But to Nowitzki, the MVP of his team was the new guy, veteran center Tyson Chandler. A few weeks after the excitement of winning it all, Chandler is relaxing at home, and considering the lockout, which coincides with the first unrestricted free agency of his career.
In late June, after the title, the Mavericks had a period when they could have negotiated a new contract with you before the lockout. What happened?
We talked about getting something done before the lockout, but it just didn't happen. ... we were so far apart, we might as well not have even met.
That was like celebration time, too.
Exactly. It wasn't much time there and it was celebration time, so everybody was still celebrating and we might have a lot longer to keep celebrating, too.
What's it like playing for Mark Cuban?
It was great. I really enjoyed playing for him. If you're a fan, you would want him to own your team. He puts on an incredible show. When my friends and family came in town they all enjoyed the games because not only does he put great players on the floor but he puts on a great show in timeouts, halftime, in between quarters, it's just always something going on. From a fan's aspect, I know they really appreciate that.
He does some things ... like a team psychologist, stats guy Roland Beech, free throw shooting coach ... that most teams don't invest in. Do those things make a difference?
Yeah, they do. Especially a team psychiatrist. It's more a guy you can bounce ideas off of and get a different point of view. He's always going to be honest with you. If you feel like coach has it out for you -- that would never happen -- but if you feel like coach has it out for you, or you and a teammate aren't getting along, or you want to know a way to approach him, something like that, you can always go to him and ask him and he can say "coach isn't giving you a fair shot because you know, blah, blah, blah." Or "you have to understand the personality of player X."
It's just a lot of different things that really helped us in communication throughout the year. There was always an open window of communication, which I feel like spilled over to the court. You've seen the way we shared the ball, the way the ball movement was. I felt like we were the best passing team in basketball, as far as sharing the ball and hitting the open guy. The ball dictated the shot, and not the player. All that plays a part.
I saw on ESPNDallas a line from you about being ruthlessly honest. Where does that come from?
It's just years of experience, and trial and error, and understanding that my window of opportunity, being at a certain place in my career, I felt like I had nothing to lose. I felt like I wasn't going to allow anything to get in my way, no matter what it was.
If I had to ruffle feathers, or if I had to check myself, whatever the case may be, I was going to do that. At the end of the day I felt like would you rather spare someone's feelings and then be at home in the summertime wishing you were still playing? Or ruffle a few feathers, and win a championship.
How did your teammates take that?
At times, people didn't like it. But I think as the year went along, everybody understood that we were all on the same page. There were no hidden agendas. I wasn't trying to come in and accomplish anything but win. The guys who were there before me wanted the same thing. I wasn't the only one. It became contagious. Guys were talking throughout the locker room, and I was willing to listen to the next guy just as they were willing to listen to what I had to say.
It's exhilarating, it seems to me, to be in a setting where there is no B.S.
You look forward to going to work every day. I love my teammates. We'll have a special bond, now, throughout our entire career, no matter where our journey takes us. It's not often you can go in the locker room and say yeah, I like everybody in there. I enjoy coming to work with these guys. And these guys are honest. They are all straight up. Like I said, there were no hidden agendas.
I heard all the horror stories from the Washington Wizards guys [Mavericks like Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson all played for the Wizards] and all that. You understood what they had been through. And you could tell it was just a breath of fresh air for them. There's nobody plotting on playing time. There's nobody plotting on contracts. We were all going to play, and we were all going to play together. And at the end of the day, when a team wins, everybody on the team will win individually.
I don't know. That Brian Cardinal ... he's a shady character.
Ahh! [Laughs.] He's the shadiest of them all. He sat next to me on the plane. So I heard all his shady business.
He's a funny guy.
Oh, I love him.
Will you consider playing overseas?
I would, depending on this lockout situation. The only reason I'm not considering it right now is because of the long run that we had, and I played for the USA team last summer. So I was just giving myself a little bit of a break. I'm scheduled to start training again this upcoming week.
But you just start getting an itch to want to get back on the court. You never say never. Because if basketball is taken away from you long enough, you're going to want to do something.
You've had some injuries in the past. How's all that now?
Great. I haven't felt better in my career, since I was first coming into the league. The only difference is now I put some preparation behind my effort and athletic ability.
Do you have a team of doctors and trainers and such you trust all that stuff to?
Oh yeah. I definitely have a team of trainers and coaches I work with, as well as physical therapists, and even right now, when nothing's going on, I'm heading back to a lady named Judy, who worked on my two summers in a row. Right now, thank god, I have no injuries or anything, but I still plan on going and rehabbing. It's going to become a ritual now, for the rest of my career. Going, working on things, keeping things strong, so I don't run into these problems.
When I watch JaVale McGee, he reminds me of young you. So long and jumping so high. When I see him jump so often, I can't help but think: Save a little of that, JaVale! Do you see that?
When you're young, they say you're young and you're dumb. You can't gain that knowledge except for just playing. There are some Dwight Howards who come in and blossom early and are able to dominate. Then you have guys like myself, and Andrew Bynum, and I think the same thing about JaVale McGee. It's going to take him a while before he truly gets it. But his athletic ability and his just physical capability ... he should be able to change a game. And I definitely think he will.
It's just time and understanding and placing, coaching, guys working with him, before he dominates out there. He has something that you can't teach.
The first time I ever talked to you was pre-draft, and you were sitting near Eddy Curry, shortly before you two became the "Baby Bulls."
What happened? From your perspective, what happened to Eddy?
It's unfortunate. I still think Eddy should be a top three big guy in this league. Easily. With his physical advantage, his size and his touch and his athletic ability for being that big ... it's something that we lack in this league right now. Not a lot of big guys out here. He should be at the top of his game. He should be an impact player. I felt bad for him in New York. I felt like he never really got a shot. I don't know what went on there, so I can't take sides, but I definitely felt bad for him. I felt like if he had an opportunity to change things around, to show people that he was valuable ... I hope that opportunity comes around for him.
Life is so funny, huh? Little things here and there, and life can break really differently.
Exactly. Situations that you're in. If something happens to you, gives you a wake-up call ... you just never know. I was in Charlotte last year, coming off a surgery. And the next year I'm in Dallas, playing for an NBA title. You never know how things can go. Right now, where he's at, I was there a year ago. You never know what a year can do.
I know you've been doing important things like judging Miss America contests and going to the ESPYs.
But what else is on the agenda?
I'm about to do a food drive, in my hometown, in Hanford, California, with Feed the Children and the Salvation Army. That's going on on Friday, so I'll be heading out to my hometown this weekend.
So how does it work, do people bring food?
No, no, everything is sponsored. Boxes of food, deodorant, household things. Through the recession and everything else that's going on in the world, just little things to give people a boost. We'll have truckloads of stuff we'll be giving out. The Salvation Army and the church I grew up in have coupons they give out to families they know are in need, and those families can come and turn their coupon in and get boxes of stuff.
That's pretty cool.
Yeah, it's a really great thing. You really understand in these times that we all need to stick together and help out the next person. I remember when I was on the other side of the gate, when I grew up in Hanford, and I didn't have much coming up. As a youngster in the projects, I definitely didn't have anything. So if you get something, you want to be able to give back and help others. I really feel like there are some special people in the world that just are down on their luck right now.
I think there's this idea that people with your income don't understand poverty. Of course you do understand, because you grew up poor.
I didn't have nothing until my first check. That was the first time my family had anything. I definitely few up that way for the first 18 years of my life. I could never possibly attempt to forget that. Where I came from, the way I was raised, the things that I had to deal with coming up. But it was just a way of life to me. I didn't understand that there was a better way. I thought it was normal to recycle pants and shoes from your older cousins. That was just my way of life. At the end of the month, there was not much food in the refrigerator and you're hoping the first comes so food can come again. You never forget those things.
My kids and my little brothers ... they live a different lifestyle now. You don't want them to have to endure those things. But you never forget. You try to teach them the correct way and understanding that they're very fortunate, and not everybody is as blessed as they are.
Do you think they get that?
You know what? I try to make sure they do.
Any time I do any charity work, or anything like that, I try to make sure my kids are involved, or my little brothers, that can just remind them. They have every PlayStation game, and wear new Nikes every day. They need to understand that there are kids up there who are less fortunate, and the things that they take for granted, people would die for -- people are dying for. It's just, you need to be reminded of those things.
Even myself. I think the world is crumbling when I have a bad game. I'm mad, and I'm going through a bad stretch. Sometimes I'm reminded, when that person comes up at a charity event, and thanks you, and tells you what you mean to them, and this and that ... it puts life in the proper perspective.
Earlier in the CBA talks, there was talk of changing the age limit, either up or down. I guess the idea is that players from high school are irresponsible and get in trouble, but so many of them are like you, and perform so well and you're a champion and a responsible guy. Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant ... do you feel you need to stick up for high school players a little bit?
A lot of the young stars that have carried the torch for our league have come out of high school. Whether it's Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, you can go on and on.
I definitely think that whole talk about high school players not being responsible is untrue. You can have guys play four years of college and not make it in this league. You can have guys go four years in college and do something crazy. We see that every day.
I think it's more the person, the character of the person, than it is the age. It's in human nature, to hopefully get older, and get wiser through experience. But not everybody does that. I think it's up to the person that's investing their time and their money in the product, and in this case the product is basketball players and young men. I think it's up to them, the decision to decide if they want to invest their money and time in a particular young man with a particular character. You take millions of dollars to scout and make these decisions. Let them earn their check.
What's your prediction about when the lockout's going to end?
I don't know. I don't know when it's going to end. This may drag on for a long time. What I will say is that it's unfortunate that the league has taken this stance that has taken the game away from our fans, as well as our players. It's untimely, coming off some of the highest ratings that we've had in the NBA Finals. League revenue is up. Attendance is up. Excitement about the league is up, thanks to young players, trades, player movement. Even with us becoming a Cinderella team. There's a lot of excitement around the league. It's unfortunate the league would take this stance to take the game away from the fans and players at this point in time. Very unfortunate situation. We have to see how it's going to go.