- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS – At some point, Vince Carter will stop soaring and ride off into the sunset.
When that might be is the furthest thing from Carter’s mind as the eight-time All-Star prepares for his 16th season in the NBA.
“Oh no, I don’t want to do that to myself,” Carter said when asked if he’s considered how much longer he plans to play. “I don’t want to limit myself. I think doing that, you start thinking about it as the season goes on. I just go. I just let the body pretty much dictate how I feel at the end.”
Carter’s 36-year-old body feels great right now. Other than his balding head and the gray whiskers in his beard, he doesn't appear his age. He dropped a few pounds during the offseason as part of a preventative maintenance program and believes he can pick up where he left off last season, when he might have merited serious Sixth Man of the Year consideration if the Mavericks were a playoff team.
He might no longer be “Half Man, Half Amazing,” but Carter still makes high-flying cameo appearances on highlight reels. He’s also an outstanding 3-point shooter (40.6 last season) and a well above-average wing defender, according to the analytics.
“It’s not just his scoring and spectacular play, it’s what his presence on the floor means,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s a guy you have to guard all the time, so he creates space. He’s a playmaker on pick-and-rolls, which often times gets other people involved.
“I see him having another productive year. He’s in good shape. But I’ve got to watch him and make sure he’s getting the right amount of work and the right amount of rest.”
Smart enough to know that his superstar days are in the past, Carter has slipped comfortably into a reserve role with the Mavs. Carlisle intends to keep Carter’s minutes in the mid-20s per game again in an attempt to keep the swingman as fresh as possible throughout the season.
Carter packed a lot of production in limited playing time last season, averaging 13.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 25.8 minutes. His per-minute numbers haven’t slipped far from his peak.
“I’ve found my way of just coming in and being productive in that time,” Carter said. “I’ve played a lot of minutes in my career, but I’ve learned how to get it done in a shorter period of time. It’s all good.
“You just have to be ready to play. It’s one thing as a starter. If you’re playing starter minutes, you know kind of how to work your way into it in the first couple of minutes. As a bench player, you’ve got to come in ready to go. That’s been my mentality.”
Carter, is entering the last season of a three-year, $9.3 million deal that has proven to be a great bargain for the Mavs, hopes his body tells him at the end of the season to keep playing. That’s certainly the expectation for the Mavs.
Owner Mark Cuban is already on the record saying that he hopes to re-sign Carter this summer.