DALLAS – Vince Carter has been called “Half Man, Half Amazing” and many other things throughout the course of his potential Hall of Fame career. But the term “energy player” had never been used to describe the 20,000-plus-point scorer.
“He’s been an energy player for us,” coach Rick Carlisle said, “and that’s something that a lot of people wouldn’t have expected.”
Carter hasn’t shot the ball well for the Mavs, but Carlisle couldn’t be much happier with how the swingman known primarily as a scorer has contributed in other ways. That is epitomized by the play Carter made at the end of the third quarter of Wednesday’s win over the Suns.
The 6-foot-6 Carter battled hard for an offensive rebound, leaping a few times to outfight bigger Phoenix players for the ball. After finally securing the rock near the right elbow, he gathered himself to shoot, then made a smart, unselfish, accurate pass to a wide-open Jason Terry, who knocked down the buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
“It was an all-out effort play,” said Carlisle, who walked nearly to half court to show his appreciation by slapping fives with Carter. “One of the things I really like about Vince is he’s making a lot of those kinds of plays.”
Carter broke into a big grin when informed that Carlisle called him an “energy player,” a term usually reserved for less talented grinders like DeShawn Stevenson. But, in some respects, it’s the ultimate compliment Carlisle can pay to the professionalism of a former superstar who is willing to do whatever the Mavs need.
“Hey, I’m OK with that,” said Carter, who had seven points, six rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes against the Suns. “It’s just doing your role. Look at this team, we have eight guys who can start anywhere. In my mind, just come in and just go for it because when you sit down, the next guy can come in and give you something.”
The feed to Terry at the end of the third quarter wasn’t Carter’s prettiest pass of the day. He dropped two beautiful dimes to Lamar Odom for layups in the first half to help get the struggling Sixth Man of the Year in a rhythm.
But the hustle and savvy that led to Terry’s open 3-pointer personified the spirit that Carlisle wants from his team – and that keyed the Mavs’ title run last season. It also provided evidence to back up Carlisle’s claims that Carter is one of the smartest players he’s been around.
“I remember seeing [Terry] on my second or third jump,” Carter said. “As I took the dribble to go shoot, as I saw both [defenders], I was just hoping he was still there. He was right there with his hands ready.”
Of course, you can always count on Jet to have his hands ready to shoot.
“Absolutely,” Carter said, laughing. “I’ve learned that quickly.”
He’s also learned quickly how to make his coach happy.