Amid all of the lockout nonsense, yesterday actually brought some fairly good news for Maverick fans: according to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard, Tyson Chandler, who was being pursued by the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association, has opted to reject the team’s offer and remain stateside. As a free agent, Chandler was among the limited number of players who would actually be allowed – per a recent CBA ruling — to sign in China, and the fact that he turned down the offer could be seen as an initial indication that Chandler might skip out on overseas basketball altogether.
Which, given Chandler’s somewhat fragile injury history, is the greatest victory Mavs fans can claim on a day ruled by the lockout’s legal proceedings.
As much as Dirk Nowitzki’s commitments with the German National Team have put a bad taste in Mark Cuban’s mouth over the years, Nowitzki isn’t a player who merits considerable worry. He works hard, he stays in shape, and over the course of his NBA career, has missed an average of 3.3 games per season. That’s impossibly good, and it’s largely because of his rigorous preparation and conservative playing style. Both of those things remained constant in Nowitzki’s overseas travels, as they would if Dirk were to play for Real Madrid or any of Germany’s most appealing teams. A significant injury to Nowitzki would be devastating to Dallas, but his involvement in non-NBA basketball — which is very much a possibility in the months to come if the lockout isn’t resolved — is about as low-risk as such things come.
Tyson Chandler is a different story. Chandler’s first season in Dallas came and went without incident, but that in itself was atypical; Chandler has played in 75 games in a given season only four times during his 10-year career, with his most recent seasons (prior to arriving in Dallas) being especially limited. Chandler played a total of 96 games in two seasons for Charlotte and New Orleans, and when he did make it onto the court he was hampered by the lingering aftereffects of a handful of lower body ailments. Lest we forget, Chandler was the rare player to actually fail a post-trade physical examination, as a 2009 deal that would’ve landed Chandler in OKC was rescinded due to injury concerns.
Nowitzki, iron man that he is, can make a decision to play overseas with relative freedom. He can explore his options and decide on the terms of those proposed deals alone. Chandler, however, has another dimension to his decision that would be imprudent to ignore. That unfortunate potential for injury — which would appear to be higher for Chandler than the average player — could significantly impact the course of his NBA career.
Chandler’s stock has skyrocketed in light of his role in Dallas’ title efforts, and he’s set to receive a fairly massive contract offer from any number of teams interested in his services. Playing in China would not only have delayed Chandler’s immediate earning ability should the lockout be lifted (the CBA doesn’t technically allow for NBA out clauses, meaning every player signed would have to remain with their CBA team until the conclusion of their season), but it also would introduce uncertainty to what otherwise should be a certain payday. NBA GMs will line up to pay Chandler as the player he is now, and not the oft-hobbled one he was yesterday. That could very well change if he were to suffer one more notable injury, be it on U.S. soil or not. Sitting out — and sidestepping such risk — is the logical move for a player in Chandler’s position.
Thus far, we’ve seen Mavs make the right decisions on their overseas futures based on basketball considerations. Rudy Fernandez, who could very well bounce from the NBA after the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season, has invested some time with Real Madrid, a team which very clearly fits his stylistic needs. Dirk Nowitzki, who should have no fear of injury, will seriously consider offers from foreign teams as a means to stay in shape and keep doing what he loves. And Chandler, for the moment, has withstood the siren’s call of a quick paycheck and a playing opportunity for the sake of his own best interests, both in his bank account and on the court. Not all of those developments are best for the Dallas Mavericks or the fans that follow them, but these are not choices for the team — nor its fans — to make.
Every player has the power of their own agency; the lockout has made that more true than ever. All any fan could ask is that players operate in a sensible fashion, and then appreciate the good fortune when those decisions coincide with what’s best for the team at large.