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Tyson Chandler, Phil Jackson At Odds Over Knicks’ Contributions

When Phil Jackson claimed that shipping Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas would improve team chemistry, the big man took strong offense.

Tyson Chandler

The official start of NBA training camp remains nearly a week away and already new and intense rivalries are sprouting, none more intriguing than the ongoing spat between Phil Jackson and Tyson Chandler.

Soon after taking over as president of basketball operations for the New York Knicks late last season, the much decorated Jackson elected to ship the veteran Chandler out west to Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks. In the aftermath, the two have seemingly exchanged enough hostile quips to even give the always outspoken Cuban temporary pause.

When making the deal, Jackson told reporters he was motivated by the idea of fostering better “chemistry” in the Knicks locker room. “To do that we felt it was important to bring in some new personnel and start with some character guys that we feel can carry this forward,” he added.

As part of the final deal, Jackson also included oft-misfiring and gun-toting, criminally convicted guard Raymond Felton, with the Knicks taking back Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert and Shane Larkin.

Exiling Felton, who shot an eight-season low 39.5 percent from the field while totaling a career-low 9.7 points per game last season, was a no-brainer. But the inclusion and derision of Chandler, the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year, took some by surprise, most notably Chandler himself.

“I did nothing but try to help the culture there the three years I was there,” raged Chandler. “You can say I didn’t live up to whatever or you didn’t like the way I played or anything. But to ever question who I am and the type of leader I am in the locker room, I don’t even know where that came from. I honestly don’t know where that came from. I don’t know if Phil put that out there or who put that out there, but to me, that was the ultimate shock. And you don’t have to say that to get rid of me or to trade me.”

But one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure, and in ushering Chandler back to Dallas, Cuban and the Mavs are convinced they have struck it rich. Chandler starred on the Mavs’ 2010-11 title-winning squad, anchoring the defense that handed LeBron James and the Big 3 their first NBA Finals defeat. Dallas is convinced he again can be that kind of difference maker.

But first, the 31-year-old, 13-year vet has to get Jackson and the Knicks out of his system.

“To judge my character and what I’ve done, you can go look at all my teammates and ask all of my teammates in the past, and the coaches I’ve played for, and I’ve never been a problem and never had a problem,” he added. “So, that was a shock to me that I didn’t appreciate. It makes no sense. If you call holding people accountable daily being a bad influence, then hey, I’m a bad influence. But I’m going to be that as long as I’m going to strap up my shoes and step on the basketball court. And that was the big problem there.”

Chandler doesn’t expect to face any such issues in Big D, where he is already being looked upon and handed the reigns as one of the team’s leaders.

I’m going to make them defend,” Chandler said of a Mavs lineup that includes such noted high scorers as Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. “You can score as many points as you want, but at the end of the day, defense wins championships. Guys don’t have to be the best individual defenders in the league, but we are going to be a great defensive team. You have to do your assignment. We’re not going to take plays off.”

It’s the way Tyson Chandler will tell you he’s always played the game. No matter what Phil Jackson might have to say.

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