Last season, the Dallas Mavericks undid a great wrong by bringing back their beloved center, their defensive anchor and their team leader, Tyson Chandler, all to great fanfare and affection.
OK, so I'm guessing there won't be quite as much fervor this time around for Samuel Dalembert's return to Maverick-dom. Dalembert was a Plan Q option in the summer of 2013 when Dallas fared to lure Dwight Howard to
Texas the Metroplex. It was Dalembert who was sent away in the trade that brought Tyson Chandler back into the fold. It is Dalembert who returns now as Dallas fared to lure DeAndre Jordan -- or retain the services of Tyson, for that matter.
What is expected of Dalembert this season?
This might be a more difficult question to answer than some realize.
Dalembert is one of three new centers on the roster this season with NBA experience, and (with respect) it is probably reasonable to say that none are capable of starting for a contending team. Unfortunately, that reveals a lot about where Dallas is at right now.
On paper, Zaza Pachulia is the best center and therefor the logical choice to start. Dalembert is coming off probably the worst season of his career, and was waived in January by a team that lost 65 games. The third center, coincidentally, was waived by a team that lost 64 games, and that man -- Javale McGee -- is the wild card, but his health and capacity for executing within team concept are major concerns.
In terms of fit, Dalembert may actually be the better option to play next to Dirk Nowitzki than Pachulia, and it would not surprise me if Sam eventually becomes the "tone-setter", even if he only plays 15-18 minutes or so (he averaged 20 minutes while starting 68 games in '13-'14). Dalembert's shot blocking and rebounding proficiency are the kind of attributes needed next to Dirk, and Pachulia does not offer much of the former. What exactly his role will likely depend on whether or not Dalembert can improve his physical conditioning, which Rick Carlisle has already commented on.
Even if he doesn't start, there's a good chance that Dallas is going to need whatever Dalembert has left in his 34-year-old body.
What is the best case scenario for Dalembert?
Probably something close to what he provided two years ago, when he averaged just under 7 points and 7 rebounds and helped contribute to another three center rotation. Dalembert is always going to be inconsistent, and there will undoubtedly be games where he disappears. But Dalembert has traits you can't teach, being 6'11 260 with looooong aaaaarms. He can block shots and roll to the rim in his sleep, which is probably a good setup for a joke about alarm clocks.
As recently detailed by Tim McMahon, there are reasons to think Dalembert's time as a Mav might be more focused this time around: his family is with him in Dallas, and there is certainly familiarity with the coaching staff and a few players.
Without overstating things, on the occasions when Dalembert found himself engaged and motivated, the results could be quite good. Dalembert posted a double-double with 13 points, 10 boards and 4 blocks against San Antonio in game 3 of the first round playoff series, the game known of course for Vince Carter's buzzer beater to win. On the season Dalembert had 18 games where he hit double-digits in rebounds, and 12 games where he recorded three or more blocks, and again this came despite barely averaging 20 minutes a night.
What is the worst case scenario for Dalembert?
Dallas did bring 20 players to camp, including Jarrid Famous, who led the D-League in rebounding, and Salah Mejri, a 7 footer from Tunisia who has extensive experience with Real Madrid, one of Europe's premiere teams. So, Dalembert will not simply be handed a job just for showing up.
His problems with punctuality as well as some of his off-court habits will keep the leash relatively short, and to put it bluntly, if he screws up one too many times he could find himself in Rick Carlisle's doghouse permanently. Plus, at 34, the threat of injury or age-induced ineffectiveness looms. Dalembert's physical gifts have kept him employed year after year, but you get the sense that a player with his kind of personality could hit the proverbial wall rather suddenly.
As I touched on earlier, Javale McGee is the wild card in the center situation. I am not very bullish on this, but if McGee can get healthy, and cut down on the head-scratching decisions he routinely made in his previous NBA stops, then Dalembert will quickly find himself a distant third in line for minutes.
Samuel Dalembert or Blake Griffin: who would win in a fight?
Griffin is just one of several objectively extremely punchable players on the Clippers (though Matt Barnes isn't there any more, meaning the title of most punchable is now up for grabs).
Looking back at that video, this was probably the most infuriating Mavs game for me in recent memory. As if I didn't already have enough reasons to dislike that team.