Vince Carter Talks Paul George, Offers Advice for the Slam Dunk Contest

by Manny Randhawa | @MannyRsports

February 12, 2014

When Vince Carter entered the game for the Mavericks on Wednesday night against the Pacers, the man he was tasked with guarding was also a man he wanted to talk to: Paul George.

The two could be seen chatting and smiling as they prepared to resume play following the substitution, and slapped five before beginning to compete against one another.

“I just told him I didn’t like him,” Carter joked after the game, with his tone betraying his true intentions for the conversation.

“It’s the first time I really had a chance to kind of reach out to him since he did the 360-windmill dunk,” Carter continued. “And I told him it was impressive. I’m not really one to go public on social media. I wanted to wait until I saw him to be genuine and have it come from me. So I said, ‘Hey, that was pretty impressive.’”

Why did Carter, in particular, feel the need to express his admiration for the George dunk? Here’s why:

As you can see, Carter did virtually the same dunk in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest over NBA All-Star Weekend, along with an assortment of other spectacular, show-stopping slams.

Carter said he hadn’t seen the split-screen, frame-by-frame comparison of George’s dunk with his own that had been shown afterward, but said George’s dunk was clearly better for one important reason.

“The dunk itself was similar,” Carter said. “But think about it: He did it in a game, on a fast break with people running after him.”

George said after the Jan. 18 game against the Clippers in which he made the highlight-reel play that the dunk hadn’t been premeditated; he thought of it in the couple of seconds he had after he stepped in front of a pass to steal the basketball.

“I had a little more time,” Carter added. “I mean, there’s the pressure, of course, in the dunk contest with a lot of people watching or whatever, but to do it in a game and complete it, that’s pretty tough.”

If there’s anyone who knows how to perform well in a slam dunk competition, it’s Carter. Does he have any suggestions for George in the 24-year-old’s second competition?

“I’d just say stick to what’s comfortable,” Carter said. “Make all your dunks. Everybody has different approaches, but that was my remedy. My approach to it could be different from anybody else, but when you go out there, go have fun.”

Carter added that it will be important for George not to go beyond what’s comfortable for him because there will be a lot of external voices clamoring with dunk ideas before he’s under the bright lights in New Orleans on Saturday night.

“Just stay in your comfort-zone,” Carter reiterated. “Of course, you can push the envelope, but just know what you can and can’t do. Some people are gonna talk to you and say, ‘Oh, try this and try that.’ You can have a crazy imagination, and you get caught up in what you hear and what you can’t do and you end up losing the dunk contest that maybe you should win.”

Carter said that when he took the floor for the contest 14 years ago in Oakland, he was in a zone and everything flowed naturally.

“I was in the zone when I got there,” he said. “This was my first opportunity, something I was looking forward to. I got in the zone once I got out there and could feel the energy. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is it.’”

Carter is excited about this year’s field for the contest, which includes three All-Stars for the first time since the 1988 competition that featured Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler. This year’s All-Stars who will compete are George, Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers and John Wall of the Wizards.

“I think it’s a very athletic and wowing field this year,” Carter said. “It should make for a good contest.”

As for George’s career after Saturday, the 37-year-old Carter said he expects great things from the young No. 24.

“He’s a budding and rising superstar in this league,” Carter said of George. “He’s going to continue to get better. He’s playing with confidence and he’s playing like a superstar and I think that’s what’s really going to propel him.

“He’s taken on a leadership role for his team and that’s where it starts.”

The Pacers will now head into the All-Star break with a chance to rest and refuel before the second half of the season gets underway on Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But George – along with teammate Roy Hibbert and head coach Frank Vogel and his staff – will represent Indiana in the NBA’s annual midseason showcase this weekend.

George will for the second time take center stage in the premier All-Star Weekend event leading up to the game itself on Sunday. And if he can give fans something that even remotely approaches the level of entertainment Carter gave us 14 years ago, we’re in for a treat.

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