Mavs Spotlight: the curious case of Vince Carter
The curious case of Vince Carter
DALLAS — It’s perhaps fitting that eight-time All-Star Vince Carter closed the first chapter of the Dallas Mavericks’ season by providing one of his best scoring outburst just when his team needed him most Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings to conclude play heading into the All-Star break.
After jumping out to a 15-point lead at halftime, the Mavericks (23-29) looked up and saw just a nine-point advantage when coach Rick Carlisle was forced to call a timeout up 71-62 with 5:31 left in the third. That’s when Carter began to go to work, reaching a career milestone in the process while passing one of the game’s all-time greats on the NBA’s scoring list.
Scoring 17 points during a stretch of six minutes and 33 seconds of game action, Carter swished in five 3-pointers in the third quarter while boosting the lead back to 15 entering the fourth. He eventually finished the night with 26 points in less than 23 minutes on 9-of-15 shooting and 6 of 9 from 3-point range in a 123-100 rout, becoming just the 11th player in league history with at least 1,600 made 3-pointers in his career and passing Larry Bird (21,791) for 29th place on the all-time scoring list in the process.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Carter, who turned 36 years old back on Jan. 26. “I didn’t know after reading up on stuff. But at the same time, when you’re around long enough, you’re going to pass a few people if you’re scoring. … I’ve talked with Larry before, and he is a legend. And to pass one of the greatest to play the game, that’s a great feeling. I can go home feeling good.”
But that scoring explosion was nothing new for the ageless Carter in his 15th season, averaging 13.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists a night to go with 40.4 percent shooting from 3-point range off the Mavs’ bench, taking over the sixth man duties following Jason Terry’s free-agent exodus to Boston this offseason. More impressively, he’s done it all in the midst of trade rumors to the delight of Mavs fans and Carlisle.
“Just being aggressive and just making plays more so than anything,” a modest Carter said. “I want to make plays for the team. Whatever that entails I’m going to do. You know, if I have to facilitate, I’m going to facilitate. Just trying to bring the energy with that second unit and just a different look. You know, when I come in, Coach [Carlisle] feels comfortable having the ball in my hands to make plays for other guys just kind of to get some continuity out there sometimes when things are running slow. I feel comfortable in my role.”
In a reserve role during 48 of his 51 appearances this season, Carter has taken on the leadership responsibilities while boosting the Mavericks’ second unit. He’s also made a seamless transition from household name to spark plug off the bench, a challenge Carlisle says he welcomed with open arms after Terry and his instant offense migrated to the Eastern Conference.
And after seeing how Carter’s impact was sorely missed during his one absence due to a sickness, a 112-91 defeat in Oklahoma City on Feb. 4, the coach will try to keep Carter’s 36-year-old body fresh as the Mavs hope to make a playoff push during the second portion of the season, looking to keep the versatile swingman playing at a high level during the final 30 games.
“It speaks to how he’s taken care of himself and longevity,” Carlisle said of the season that Carter is having. “You don’t pass Larry Bird on the scoring list unless you’ve been in it a long time. … So, you know, it’s remarkable really, and what we’re seeing now in the sport is, you know, we’re seeing guys playing more into their deep 30s because guys eat better and they take care of themselves better. The lifestyle has improved, because of private planes and things like that. And so, if guys take care of themselves and have ability and work at it, they can stay in this a long time. And Vince has got a really good situation here with our team and we’ve got a really good situation having him here, because we needed a guy that could be a scorer and playmaker off the bench with JET [Terry] being gone, and Vince early on was talking about filling that void before any of us brought it up. So, you know, it’s really been a good situation, and my job is going to be to make sure that we’re playing him the right stretch of minutes, not wearing him out. And we’ve got 30 games left and we want to get momentum coming out of the break.”
“I mean, we talked about it. I told him I don’t have a problem with it,” Carter added. “Like I said, it’s a new challenge for me and something I accept. Coming off the bench, I’m ready to go. I think the hardest part of it was, when you’re a starter, you can kind of ease yourself into it. Or when you’re running slow, you can play yourself through it. When you come off the bench, you have to be ready to go. And I come ready to go and ready to fire if I’m open.”
Note: The Mavs return to action next Wednesday night at home against the Orlando Magic. The Mavs lead the season series between the two teams after a 111-105 win in Orlando back on Jan. 20. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
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