DALLAS — In Tyson Chandler’s latest return to Dallas, he didn’t play a single minute, but that was by design.
His new club, the Phoenix Suns, played the Mavericks on Wednesday at American Airlines Center in the Suns’ preseason finale, but Chandler, a key part of the Mavs’ 2011 NBA championship team who then returned to Big D last season, stayed on the bench.
On the second night of a back-to-back, Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek decided to rest Chandler and several other regulars who’d played the night before in San Antonio.
But being on the bench didn’t keep the veteran big man from doing what he’s done since inking a four-year deal with the Suns this summer: mentoring what is a pretty young roster.
As Dallas raced out to a big lead, Chandler could be seen offering bits of sage advice to his teammates, sort of another coach on the bench. The Suns were a much better team in the second half and ended up winning.
Seeing his veteran center who’s 33 and has 13 years in the league as the most veteran guy on his roster taking on such a mentoring role is nothing new for Hornacek.
“Well, again we’re hoping that [he brings that] veteran leadership of staying on guys when they need it at the start of a game like that. You can do that from the bench somewhat and he was saying things at the timeouts, but a lot of times it’s the effort out on the court that helps,” Hornacek said postgame.
“He’ll bring that. He’s done a great job with our young guys and they all respect him and understand that he knows what it takes and that when he says something, players tend to notice him.”
So, how young is this Suns team? Well, of the 15 players on their roster for their preseason finale, all but four had five or fewer years in the Association.
Forward Cory Jefferson, a former Spurs draft pick who spent last season in Brooklyn and played 50 games for the Nets before being waived in July, is one of those youngsters doing all he can to soak up all he can from someone like Chandler.
“Yeah, he’s definitely been a great influence just on and off the court, especially on the court — just going through drills. In practice, no matter what we’re doing, if he sees something, he’ll let you know,” Jefferson said. “If practice is going on, he’ll kind of let coach know that he’s about to address something that he sees. We’ll stop practice for a second and he’ll tell us things that’ll help us as a team to be better. [He’s] just giving us his knowledge.”
And as the Suns were preparing for Wednesday’s game, Chandler was offering up another big lesson in the locker room: how to be a true professional no matter the circumstances.
Chandler was addressing the Dallas media for the first time since the Mavs didn’t offer him the chance to remain in Big D, something he was hoping for after Dallas also let him leave after the ’11 championship, when he signed with New York.
But with the Mavs instead going all-in on DeAndre Jordan, who decided to remain a Clipper at the last minute, Chandler had to explore other options, so he signed a four-year deal in Phoenix.
He’s moved on from the events of the summer, which he called “strange,” and has no ill will toward Mavs owner Mark Cuban or the front office.
Instead, Chandler looks back on his time as a Maverick with nothing but fond memories, for his coach, his teammates, the fans and the city in general.
“I love this city. I embraced this city. This city is home to me. I still love the people here. You can’t have animosity when you won a championship somewhere,” Chandler said.
He did admit he’s still disappointed in how the whole situation was handled, but again took the high road and didn’t criticize Cuban for his role in him ending up with the Suns.
“You can be upset about the way things turned out, but I don’t have animosity towards Cuban to be honest. He made a decision. Do I agree with the decision? No, I don’t agree with the decision but it was his decision to make. It’s his team. He owns it. He can make any move that he wants to make,” Chandler said. “Now I’m with a new organization. It’s time to move on.”
And as several of his new teammates listened intently to what he was saying, like a seasoned pro, Tyson offered up his own statement about just how much he has moved on.
“It’s not about them [Dallas]. It’s about me and my future. I’m here with a new, young team, exciting team that I’m looking forward to building with,” Chandler said. “I have no ill will against them at all. I won’t allow that in my heart.”
The regular season might not have started yet, but Tyson Chandler has already had a positive impact on the Phoenix Suns, so just imagine how much this promising young group can learn from him over the next four seasons.