This week NBA players can report to team facilities for the first time since July 1, though training camps and formal contract signings won’t start until December 9—assuming, as noted, that the player’s association re-forms and officially approves the new collective bargaining agreement by then.

Politics aside, it looks like the Dallas Mavericks may already take a giant hit: The team’s center, Tyson Chandler (above far left), the defensive linchpin of last year’s title team, and a free agent, is talking like he’s out the door.

“We’ve got to get Tyson Chandler back—that’s the key,” Mavs guard Jason Terry told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Tuesday. “A whole lot of people are trying to get him, but if we’re serious about repeating as champions, he’s obviously the key piece.” 

Chandler spoke to ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Marc Stein on Wednesday and said he would have liked to have been signed to a pre-lockout contract extension. “I really think I’m going to be on a new team come training camp,” he said. He later added, “I want to be in camp with my new teammates as soon as possible.”

Citing anonymous sources “with knowledge of club’s thinking,” Broussard and Stein wrote that the Mavs fear that if they gave Chandler his open-market value, they would have less money to spend in the 2012 off-season, when they may need a “younger cornerstone player” to compensate for Dirk Nowitzki entering his twilight years.

Ironically, Henry Abott of ESPN’s True Hoop blog has said the Mavs were losers in the lockout because new luxury tax rules meant owner Mark Cuban would have to start practicing “spending discipline.”
“At some point, the Mavs’ strategy of outspending everyone will be curtailed,” agreed Abbott’s ESPN cohorts Chad Ford and John Hollinger.
Not paying Chandler may be a first step in that direction. But it’s not a step that blogger “andytobo” of Mavs Moneyball would like the team to take: “I’ve got a feeling that if the Mavs let the future get in the way of the present—and it’s a real possibility—they’re going to regret it for a long time.”

With or without Chandler, the Mavs are already being counted out by Vegas bookmakers. As the Dallas Morning News reported, four NBA teams have better odds than the Mavs to win the NBA championship this year, including the long-hated Los Angeles Lakers, currently most-hated Miami Heat, and up-and-coming hate objects the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Of couse, the Mavericks beat all three of those teams in the post-season last year.