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NBA Free Agency: The final chance for Vince Carter’s redemption

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At the 2000 NBA All-Star Game, Vince Carter put in one of the most prolific, maybe the single best performances in NBA history.

In the 2000 summer Olympics, Vince Carter dunked over Frederic Weis in arguably the most famous posterization of all time.

And in the early to mid-2000’s, Carter put together one of the best runs in New Jersey Nets history alongside Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson (shoutout to Kerry Kittles).

Other than that, Vince Carter has been a model of disappointment for fans and executives. Which is bizarre since he is simultaneously one of the top 40 best players of the past decade. You can make a pretty good argument for him to be top 20 and if you got top 15, you’re not high. Top ten and things get a little smokey, but the point is the same.

In Orlando, it was supposed to be his chance to make the difference, to be the final piece. He didn’t need to be the man, he just needed to be Vince Carter Great, which is a very specific brand of Great at his age. And yet, the same issues that have plagued him and lead to mockery (easily susceptible to injury, questionable heart, failure to deliver in the biggest moments, airballing free throws) tormented him. He was traded to the Phoenix Suns in essentially a combination deal for Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas for crying out loud (the Arenas-for-Lewis deal was separate but wouldn’t have occurred without the Phoenix deal for Carter).

So there it is. More injuries, more questions, more vulnerability, more jokes, despite an arguable Hall of Fame career if a few more things had gone his way. His 2006-2007 season? He played 82 games. And the list of players who scored 24 points and a 21 PER? It includes players like Dwyane Wade, David Robinson, Larry Bird, and Oscar Robinson.

But he never made the difference and the way he bailed on Toronto and the way his time ended in so many places will haunt his legacy.

But he gets one more shot.

From ESPN.com:

Vince Carter isn’t a free agent yet, but sources close to the situation say the eight-time All-Star will be thrust onto the open market shortly after the end of the lockout.

Based on an amendment in his contract obtained by ESPN.com, Carter must be waived by the Phoenix Suns within 72 hours of the official start of free agency or his $18 million salary for the 2011-12 season becomes fully guaranteed.

The Suns, sources said, have already decided to waive Carter within that window.

The Suns and Carter amended the contract in June to delay the guaranteed-salary date in Carter’s final contract year until after the lockout ended. Waiving Carter inside the first 72 hours after the league’s schedule start of free agency Friday means that Phoenix would only have to pay $4 million to Carter and likely ensure that the Suns avoid luxury-tax territory this season even after trying to complete the re-signing of Grant Hill and moves with other potential free agents.

via Sources: Phoenix Suns to cut Vince Carter when lockout ends – ESPN.

Carter will hit the open market. The Suns and Carter restructured his contract to help both sides out in the face of the lockout. This move was expected for months. And when he does, he’s the kind of player that can help a team win a title. “Right, like the Magic?” you say. But hear me out.

He’ll never again be the difference maker. Running the pick and roll is not a strength (ask Dwight Howard). If he’s going to make a difference, it’s going to be as a spot-up shooter and the guy who pump-fakes and hits the mid-range J. But there are simply not many guys with his ability to blend into an offense if he’s not expected to create. That’s the biggest issue with Carter at this point, he can’t create and he can’t give heavy minutes. But in limited minutes, off the bench for a stocked team, he provides enough to force away double teams. The Heat are an obvious target. But then so are the Bulls. You have to double Derrick Rose. It’s a necessity like breathing. But if you do so and he kicks out to Carter, and you do manage to recover to challenge on the perimeter, Carter is one of the few players who can pump fake and drive. He can make the plays few players can, even at his age with his injuries. Limited minutes will reduce his workload. And being a glue guy? It’s hard to fine anyone in the league who will speak badly for Carter as a teammate. Fans may hate him, but players love him, even if some may question his intensity.

He shot 42% from the field in Phoenix. Pretty bad. 36% from the arc. Not great. But it’s simply unlikely that with a better role, in a better system, with fewer expectations, he can’t be a difference maker. There’s a chance here. Carter can redeem himself, redefine his legacy.

It’s Carter’s last chance. We’ll see if the story that began with a prolific dunker gets a much-needed full-circle to greatness.

 

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.

D’Angelo Russell said he used to play as Luke Walton on NBA 2K; Stephen Jackson calls that crap

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during a news conference to discuss the controversy with teammate Nick Young before the start of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Staples Center March 30, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?

D'Angelo Russell says he did.

The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”

Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.

Jackson has a point.

Report: No, J.R. Smith isn’t talking to Sixers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 22: J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with the fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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What is with the ridiculous, unrealistic Philadelphia 76ers rumors of late? Last I checked recreational use was not legal in Pennsylvania. Not that the law is stopping anyone.

The latest silliness follows this logic:

This summer the Sixers made runs at veteran guards such as Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili (and they forced the Spurs to pay up for the Argentinian to keep him).

The Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith are in a staring contest, and Smith remains a free agent.

The Sixers have more than $22 million in cap space still.

So…

No. Not happening.

Or, we could have just asked Smith who has said he is not talking to other teams and doesn’t want to play anywhere but Cleveland.

I can get why Sixers management would want to bring a veteran and beloved, hard-working pro such as Ginobili in to lead and mentor a young team. Does Smith bring that same demeanor? I get that Smith in Cleveland has developed his game, and that he has matured and backed off his hard-partying ways (he gets a hall pass for the days after winning a championship), but is Smith the veteran you bring into a young locker room?

Can we move on from the ridiculous in Pennslyvania? Well, probably not until after the election, that is a battleground state.

Paul George says “I’m ready” to challenge LeBron James for supremacy in East

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 29: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks for a pass while under pressure from Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on February 29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. The only guy who could start to challenge that supremacy the past couple of years has been Stephen Curry, and last season’s NBA Finals answered that question for now.

In the Eastern Conference, for years now it has been LeBron James and his team then a step back to everyone else — LeBron has been to six straight NBA Finals, four in Miami and the last two in Cleveland. Most pundits (myself included) think that’s going to be seven in-a-row because the Cavaliers are clear and away the class of the East.

Paul George says he and the Pacers are ready to change that narrative. Here is what he told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“Honestly, I look at us challenging them. I’ve been in the East and I’ve been No. 1 with LeBron being on a team,” George told The Vertical in a recent telephone interview, harkening back to when the Pacers finished with the best regular-season record in the East in 2013-14, the season before his gruesome Team USA leg injury….

“I’ve always matched up with him like, ‘I know he can do this, I know he can do that,’ ” George told The Vertical about James. “Not in an awe fashion, but it’s more so, ‘I’m not supposed to win these games. This is supposed to be the best dude in the NBA. I’m trying to challenge him. I know what I’m up against.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I’m a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let’s meet here, let’s get this job done.’ I’m prepared. I’ve had time to figure this out. I’ve had time to lick my wounds. I’m ready.”

Good for George — this is exactly what you want an elite competitor and top player to say heading into the season. He sees Everest in front of him, and he wants to climb it.

I’m also higher on the Pacers than most; I think they are a top-four team in the East that can finish top two. They upgraded at the point with Jeff Teague, plus they added the underrated Thaddeus Young (although they will miss Solomon Hill) and depth up front with Al Jefferson. I don’t get Larry Bird pushing Frank Vogel out the door at all, but Nate McMillan is a solid NBA coach to take his place. I think the Pacers are taking a step forward this season, maybe a fairly significant one.

But they’re still not in the Cavaliers’ class.

The East is still Cleveland then everyone else. Last season Toronto won 56 games and had its best season in franchise history, and they were still a step or two below the Cavaliers. No team in the East — not the Raptors, not the Celtics, not the Pacers — are making up those steps. Unless injuries or something else unforeseen brings the Cavaliers back to the pack, the Eastern Conference once again will look like Secretariat at the Belmont.