Vince Carter Far From Finished
Injury has thrust Dallas Mavericks guard Vince Carter back into the starting lineup and the 13-year veteran has responded by playing some of his best basketball of the season.
Filling in for Jason Kidd – who’s expected to miss at least a week after pulling his right calf last Friday against the Utah Jazz – Carter has resembled more Half-Man, Half-Amazing than aging veteran during this current three-game stretch.
“I’m starting to feel comfortable,” Carter said. “I take pride in just trying to learn the offense and just learn a couple positions. It’s getting easier and easier and I’m feeling very comfortable.”
After missing time himself due to a left foot sprain that forced him to miss five games, Carter has returned and been reintroduced to the starting five after spending the majority of the young season as a key reserve. The player formerly known as ‘Vinsanity’ has not only done an admirable job holding down one of the starting guard spots, but also providing some much-needed scoring punch while Dirk Nowitzki gets back into the groove offensively.
This return to form on the offensive end has been especially crucial considering Nowitzki has accumulated a total of 20 total points in his first two games back with Dallas, while Carter has set season-highs with 21 points in back-to-back contests.
“He’s made some things happen for us offensively, and defensively he’s been pretty solid,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s a major weapon for us and a big part of what we’re doing. Now that he’s back and Dirk’s back, we have a lot of different ways that we can go.”
What’s even more impressive about Carter’s offensive output is that it hasn’t been at the expense of the team. There’s no volume shooting, taking 20 shots to get those 21 points here for Carter, in fact it’s been the complete opposite. Over the last three games, Carter is shooting 55 percent from the field – including a robust 53 percent from three-point range.
With that combination of marksman-like accuracy from behind the arc and a renewed emphasis on getting to the basket, Carter’s averaging 18 points per and had his own explanation for his recent efficient play.
“Playing in a groove, just being aggressive,” Carter said of his emphasis on the floor. “[It’s about] taking the shots that are there, shooting the ball with confidence, playing the game with confidence and making plays more than anything.
“I just want to continue to attack, just to be aggressive and whatever happens, happens because there are some nights those shots are going to be there and I might not make them but it’s just the mentality I’m trying to have and continue to keep.”
Carter’s play is just a microcosm of what Dallas has stressed all season. The Mavericks stockpiled players like Carter, Lamar Odom and Delonte West during the offseason, and in this condensed season the consensus for this squad is that depth will be the biggest factor come playoff time.
This Mavericks’ roster is bursting at the seams with talent and coach Carlisle is doing a good job managing minutes and making sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to playing time.
“The only thing I ask the guys is give us your full capacity physically,” Carlisle said. “When you’re out there in terms of defending, rebounding and all that and you get tired; give me the fist and we’ll get someone fresh in there and that’s how we’re doing business this year.”
With a record of 14-8 (good for fourth in the Western Conference) and with a roster that features just one player (Nowitzki) who plays more than 30 minutes a contest, this game plan going into the season seems to have worked like a charm for this deep Mavericks’ roster.
As for Carter, whether he’s utilized as a key reserve off the bench or as a starter carrying the offensive load; he believes in the team concept and appears willing to fill whatever role it takes to win a title. It’s unlikely that he continues this level of play going forward but, frankly, it doesn’t matter. Dallas is a team that revolves around Nowitzki as it’s best player and finisher, along with a loaded cast of talented players around him that know their role and strive to win as a team.
This emphasis on team basketball and relying on a superior bench certainly worked last year for these Mavericks. The idea is that players like Carter, Odom and West can flourish in the same roles J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Tyson Chandler excelled in during last season’s championship run.
So far, in terms of Carter and West at least, that ideal has been a reality.
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