MIAMI — Derrick Rose is out. So are Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala, Chauncey Billups and Danny Granger. In all, nine of the 12 players from last year’s U.S. Men’s National Team made the playoffs. And now, only one remains.
Tyson Chandler arrives at his first NBA Finals with a chance to win two championships in the span of nine months.
If the Dallas Mavericks win these Finals, Chandler would be the first player to ever follow a World Championship with an NBA championship the following year. Plus, he’d be just the second to win both within any 12-month span, following Lamar Odom, who pulled off the feat in a three-month span last year.
The U.S. Team’s undefeated run to gold at the World Championship in Istanbul clearly had a positive effect on most of the players involved. Several of them followed it up with career years, especially on the defensive end.
“We had the opportunity to play against the best of the best,” Chandler said Monday, “not in just games, but compete every day in practice, to take things from their games. It was a big help.”
For Chandler, the carryover from his time with USA Basketball to his season with the Mavericks went beyond that. Dealing with ankle and toe injuries, he had missed 68 games over the previous two seasons. So his first priority last summer was getting healthy.
The World Championship and the two training camps leading into it gave Chandler with the opportunity to shake off some rust and build on something as he went into Mavs camp.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to really see where I was,” Chandler said. “Knowing I was able to get out there and compete and last two training camps and compete in every practice, the confidence grew in myself and [helped me understand] that I was back to 100 percent.”
That’s not all. The bonus advantage to playing last summer was learning zone defense from the master, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. The U.S. Team didn’t play a lot of zone, but they did use it whenever their opponent took the ball out under its own basket. And this season, zone defense has been a key to the Mavs’ success.
“I was able to learn a lot from Coach Boeheim and understand what he’s trying to accomplish in the zone, the communication factor and movement that you should have,” Chandler said.
In the past, Mavs owner Mark Cuban had been outspoken about his players playing on their national teams. But there’s no doubt that Chandler’s participation in last year’s World Championship was beneficial for the U.S. Team, for Chandler himself, and for the Mavs.