Opportunity Knocks

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Brad G. Faye, Suns.com
Posted: Dec. 20, 2010

Joining a ballclub that has the reputation for rejuvenating NBA veterans, it’s no wonder why Vince Carter is excited to take the court as a Phoenix Sun. But as the eight-time NBA All-Star pointed out on Monday, it isn’t the only reason.

Carter was one of three new Suns introduced to the media on Monday following the weekend’s big six-player trade – a transaction that the 12-year veteran admits caught him by surprise.

“I was sitting on the couch with my daughter, flipping through channels and stopped at what I think was a college bowl game when I saw my name scroll across the bottom,” Carter said. “That’s when all the phone calls started and the next thing I know, (Magic General Manager) Otis Smith told me the news. It was weird and caught me off guard, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a great opportunity.”

“Vince was wildly enthusiastic,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said of Carter’s reaction to heading out West. “He knows Grant Hill well and is excited about playing with Steve.”

When asked to compare the two-time MVP to his former New Jersey Nets teammate, Jason Kidd, Carter said he preferred not to compare the two playmakers but provided a few examples nonetheless.

“They both push the ball and have the ability to make plays that other point guards can’t make,” Carter said. “They’re fearless, not afraid to turn the ball over and have the ability to score when they need to. I don’t want to compare the two, but if I have to, I will say that they both have the ability to get you a good shot, and we’ll leave it at that.”

A topic that Carter didn’t shy away from was discussing how he felt about being traded from a championship-caliber team to a ballclub many don’t perceive to be a title contender. The guard not only appears excited about the prospect of getting the Suns back atop the Western Conference standings, but gives the impression that he’s embracing it.

“What we have here is an opportunity to help this organization get back to where it should be,” Carter said. “Yes, we left a championship-caliber team, but adding the right pieces to Orlando is what made that a championship-caliber team, and I think adding the right pieces here can do the same.”

As far as what it will take to make that happen, the former Slam Dunk Champion looks as if he’s a firm believer that attitude is everything.

“We all have to gel, we all have to be committed to making the same dream happen, and it takes time, but when everybody believes they can do that, great things can happen. On the teams I’ve played on in the past, when we believed, things got better. I am coming from a team with a championship mentality, and that mentality isn’t going to change.”

As far as how Carter best fits into the Suns offense, the team’s General Manager, Lance Blanks, said the 1999 Rookie of the Year winner could make the league’s most explosive offense even better.

“With Vince and the guys we added, we feel we’ve added to our ability to run,” Blanks said. “Vince has been as good a scorer as anyone in the NBA during his time, and I think there’s more left in him than some others may.”

Carter averaged 15.8 points per game in just over a season with the Magic, but was limited at times due to various injuries. When healthy and able to play consistently, however, he has proven himself one of the league’s best offensive weapons. Averaging 22.7 points per game over the course of his 12-year career, in the two seasons that Carter was able to participate in all 82 games, he finished with averages of 25.7 and 25.2 points per contest.

Despite playing in 75-plus games in six-straight seasons, and only failing to average over 20 points per game in one of them, Carter seems to have been written off by a number of critics who believe the one-time superstar is simply past his prime. On Monday, the guard stated that he looks forward to proving those naysayers wrong as a member of the Suns.

“I’ve been hearing about (my age) for the past three years,” the former Tarheel said. “It doesn’t bother me. I trust in my game and believe you can get better with age. Maybe you lose a step, maybe you don’t jump as high, but you can be more effective and that’s what I pride myself on, finding a way to keep up with the younger generation and continuing to learn the game.”

Carter doesn’t have to look far to see another former ACC standout who has done just that in Phoenix, and he says that working with what is arguably the league’s most respected training staff is yet another reason he’s excited to be joining the first Western Conference team of his career.

“You see a guy like Grant (Hill) come here and it seems like he’s drinking from the fountain of youth,” Carter said. “I’m ready to start drinking whatever he is.”

Ironically, Carter’s closest tie on the Suns roster appears to come in Hill, a neighbor of his in the Orlando area. The two have been Eastern Conference All-Stars together, and Carter said he can’t wait to again be a teammate of the former Duke Blue Devil… despite his “tainted” past.

Laughed Carter, “Keep in mind, I came from a team that had both (former Blue Devils) J.J. Reddick and Chris Duhon. But Grant is great. He’s a great friend, a great neighbor and we’ve been trying to connect and play together on the same team for a while. Now that the time has come, I’m definitely ready for the opportunity to play alongside him.”

When Lon Babby met with the media the day the transaction was first announced, the Suns executive said the reasoning behind the trade was simple.

“We have a plan, and the plan is to try and get better every single day,” he explained. “You’re never going to get better by remaining static, and we’re constantly looking for new opportunities.”

After hearing Carter on Monday, it looks as Babby and the Suns front office aren’t the only ones.