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.

 

Marcus Smart responds to Jimmy Butler: ‘It ain’t hard to find me’ (video)

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Jimmy Butler said Marcus Smart is “not about that life.”

Smart, via MassLive:

Laugh at that. This about the Celtics versus Chicago Bulls, not Marcus Smart versus Jimmy. I ain’t got to sit here and say this and that. I’m this. I’m that. I ain’t that type of guy. My actions speak louder than words. It ain’t hard to find me. But, right now, I’m focused on my teammates and this series.

That led to a few excellent follow-up questions:

Are you about that life?

Like I said before, I ain’t got to talk about what I am about. I just show you. I can show you, but I’m not going to tell you. Like I said, it ain’t hard to find me. You heard him. He said, “I don’t think Marcus Smart is about that life.” Last time I checked, if you’re going to say somebody ain’t about that life, you should know, right? But like I said, we’re going to keep this Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics, not Marcus vs. Jimmy.

Has anyone accused you not being tough before?

Never.

What was your reaction to that?

Haha.

Smart flops too much. He gets overly emotional.

But he’s way too tough to let Butler’s comments pass without rebuttal.

The real test will come on the court in Game 5 tomorrow.

Damian Lillard ‘obsessed’ with beating Warriors

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The Warriors just eliminated the Trail Blazers for the second straight year.

Portland star Damian Lillard sounds hardened by the experience.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

After the Portland Trail Blazers were swept by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, point guard Damian Lillard told ESPN he’s developed a newfound obsession with trying to take down the Warriors.

“You have to be obsessed with that because you know that they’re so good that they’re going to be there,” Lillard said after a 128-103 loss in Game 4. “That’s who you’re going to have to get through to get to where you want to get to. That’s what it is.”

I have no doubt this will drive Lillard. He just finds way to lift himself.

But will the rest of the Trail Blazers keep up with a team that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?

C.J. McCollum is a solid co-star, but it gets dicey beyond that with several players locked into expensive long-term contracts. Portland will have to pry enough production from Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and the Nos. 15, 20 and 26 picks in the upcoming draft.

The Trail Blazers have a path upward, but needing to climb as high as Golden State, the road is narrow.

Pat Riley says he wishes he gave Chris Bosh’s max contract to Dwyane Wade

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Heat president Pat Riley has said he should’ve given Dwyane Wade a max contract in 2014 after LeBron James left Miami.

Instead, Wade stayed with the Heat on what became two one-year contracts. That lack of long-term security bothered Wade, who took discounts in prior years, and contributed to his exit to the Bulls.

But paying Wade and Chris Bosh, who got a max contract from Miami two years ago, so much into their late 30s likely would have cost the Heat dearly. It’s nearly impossible to build around two declining max players.

Riley apparently has a retroactive plan for that – re-signing only Wade, not Bosh.

Wright Thompson of ESPN:

But of course, Riley says, almost immediately after LeBron left, Bosh’s camp wanted to reopen a deal they’d just finished, knowing the Heat had money and felt vulnerable. Bosh threatened to sign with the Rockets. In the end, Riley gave Bosh what he wanted. Now he wishes he’d said no to Bosh’s max deal and given all that money to Wade.

Riley says that Wade’s agent asked to deal directly with the owners instead of Pat, so he merely honored that request. Mostly, he just wishes the whole thing had gone differently. “I know he feels I didn’t fight hard enough for him,” he says. “I was very, very sad when Dwyane said no. I wish I could have been there and told him why I didn’t really fight for him at the end. … I fought for the team. The one thing I wanted to do for him, and maybe this is what obscured my vision, but I wanted to get him another player so he could end his career competitive.”

When he describes his reaction to Wade’s leaving, it’s always in terms of how sad it makes him feel

Riley has done a much better job explaining to the public how sad he is about Wade leaving rather than actually doing something while he had the chance or even expressing his regret to Wade after the fact.

It’s almost as if Riley knew excommunicating a Heat Lifer would be both good for the franchise long-term and a terrible look in the short term and is trying to mitigate the damage. Wade might even realize that, too.

To a certain degree, Riley could be speaking in hindsight. Bosh’s deal has not worked out, with Riley believing the big man’s career is over due to blood-clot issues. But hindsight also says giving Wade, now 35, a five-year contract two years ago would’ve been disastrous.

There’s sentimentality at work here. Wade is the greatest player in Heat history. Riley drafted him, groomed him and built three championship teams in two eras around him.

I just can’t figure out how much Riley is exploiting that sentimentality to warm Miami fans after coldly letting Wade walk and how much Riley genuinely regrets contract negotiations with Wade. This is almost certainly shades of both.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wear same outfit to Game 5 (photo)

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I can’t verify Raptors forwards Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wearing the same outfit to last night’s Game 5 against the Bucks is the happenstance Patterson presents it as. But there’s a saying in journalism: It’s too good to check out.

Whatever led to this, Toronto ought to keep doing it. The Raptors smashed Milwaukee.

Patterson: