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

6 Comments

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.

 

Report: Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, determined to become NBA head coach, offered Florida women’s job

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Leave a comment

Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is the NBA’s first female full-time coach.

She could also become the next Florida women’s basketball coach.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is considering a lucrative offer to leave the NBA and become the University of Florida women’s basketball coach, league sources told The Vertical.

The financial offer would be a considerable raise, especially considering that she’s still a young, behind-the-bench assistant on Gregg Popovich’s staff. Nevertheless, Hammon is grappling with the decision, because she has been determined to stay on course to become the NBA’s first female head coach, league sources said.

Hammon is blazing a trail in the NBA and might eventually become a head coach in the league. She has Gregg Popovich’s endorsement, praise from San Antonio players and success in limited opportunities.

But the path for a woman coach in men’s basketball is extremely narrow. It’s not fair, but Hammon faces hurdles others wouldn’t.

And the glass ceiling becomes exponentially thicker for a woman in women’s basketball who’s trying to jump to men’s basketball. Women’s college basketball is not a pipeline to the NBA, especially not for a woman. If Hammon goes to Florida, the paradigm changes. It would renew questions about her playing experience coming only in women’s basketball and her limited time with the Spurs.

Hammon wouldn’t be blackballed from the NBA, but she’d be setting up more obstacles for herself to clear to become a head coach in the league.

In one respect, I don’t envy her decision. However, she has positioned herself to choose between a promising path and an excellent job. Even if deciding is difficult, she’ll wind up in a good place.

Reports: Phil Jackson attending Shaq statue ceremony, Magic Johnson missing it to scout UCLA-Kentucky

AP Photo/Gus Ruelas
1 Comment

The Lakers are formally unveiling Shaquille O’Neal’s statue outside their arena tonight. Also tonight: UCLA-Kentucky in the Sweet 16, which features NBA prospects Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, T.J. Leaf, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo.

That makes an interesting choice for the NBA’s two highest-profile team presidents – the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Knicks’ Phil Jackson (who coached Shaq in Los Angeles), both of whose teams are headed toward a high picks in the upcoming draft.

And the front-office heads are going different directions.

Arash Markazi of ESPN:

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Watching a single game in person is unlikely to swing anything. Both Johnson and Jackson could send scouts to watch UCLA-Kentucky live and then the presidents could watch video later.

But attending in person is ideal, and there are already questions about Jackson’s work ethic. This will only fuel them.

If nothing else, this is an opportunity for Johnson, new on the job, to establish an image. He can clearly juxtapose himself with the failing Jackson and establish himself as a diligent alternative. The Lakers hired Johnson at least in part due to his high profile, but that needn’t stop him from grinding now that he has the position. Anyone doubting him would respect that.

Tyreke Evans: Giannis Antetokounmpo is like a taller me

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
Leave a comment

Giannis Antetokounmpo torched the Kings for 32 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Bucks’ 18-point win Wednesday.

Afterward, Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans paid the Greek Freak the ultimate compliment.

Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:

Do you see many players like Antetokounmpo? Evans:

Nah. He like me, but 6-7 – I mean like almost 6-8, 6-7, whatever height he is. He just long, athletic. He get to where he want to go. He got good handle for his size, and he athletic. Once he get around the rim, he can finish.

If only you were an inch taller? Evans:

That’d be a problem. I mean, it’s still a problem, I think, for me to get where I want. But just the athleticism he have and the way he get up off the ground – he got quick bounce. He pretty good at it.

Antetokounmpo is listed at 6-foot-11, Evans 6-foot-6.

This isn’t totally unreasonable. Make Evans five inches taller and add none of the dexterity awkwardness that tends to accompany growth, and he might look a lot like Antetokounmpo. Both are usually slotted at forward while possessing point-guard skills.

But Evans isn’t 6-foot-11, and most 6-foot-11 players can’t move like Antetokounmpo. That fluidity for his size is a big part of what makes Antetokounmpo special. If Evans grew up to be 6-foot-11, he likely would have developed a different skill set than he has now.

Antetokounmpo is the rare player with both the height of a big man and skills of a guard. Evans didn’t miss out on that just because his genes kept him from growing another five inches.

This discussion is also silly for another reason. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s 6-foot-1 and certain he’d be as good as Evans if only he were five inches taller.

Rumor: Blake Griffin increasingly believed to be open to leaving Clippers in free agency

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
2 Comments

The Clippers were rumored to have already verbally agreed to terms with pending unrestricted free agents Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

But with formal contract extensions unviable, L.A. was always going to have to play out the season and hope those players remained committed into July.

There might be a hitch in that plan.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

That Griffin would also stay and reap the biggest payday he can seems likely, too—in theory. But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start—perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win.

Does Ding have credible information to suggest Griffin could join the Lakers or Celtics, or is that just speculation on the writer’s part about potential fits? It’s unclear. This is already fairly loosely sourced.

But we should gather more information quickly once free agency begins. Griffin reportedly planned to re-sign quickly. If he shows the faintest hint of exploring the market, that could open the floodgates.

Griffin had been frequently linked to his home-state Thunder, but Oklahoma City would interfere with his burgeoning Hollywood connections.* The same issue would exist with Boston, though obviously not the Lakers. That said, the Celtics are WAY better than the Lakers – and maybe soon the Clippers and Thunder, considering those Nets picks headed to Boston.

*Oklahoma City also since nuked its cap space with contract extensions for Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, though trades could always clear room if Griffin wants to come home.

The Clippers are in a bad place right now. One one hand, that forebodes another disappointing end to the season. On the other hand, there’s still time to overcome and send Griffin into free agency on a more positive note.

These are dangerous times for the Clippers, who wouldn’t have cap space to adequately replace Griffin, Paul or Redick if one leaves. So, if one bolts, the others seems more likely to follow. Interpersonal relationships matter, but the Clippers’ primary selling points were always going to be money and winning (with Hollywood proximity a bonus). Winning gets harder if talent walks.

They can still offer the most money, and they’re not leaving L.A. But the Clippers better win more to help avoid what could be a tenser-than-expected summer.