Bringing in Vince Carter last season, even at a buyer-friendly price, felt like a reach for a team with an already aging roster. Anyone who'd seen him play the previous two seasons with Orlando and Phoenix could only surmise that Carter was postponing the inevitable.
And then he got to town and Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle almost instantly, and rather shrewdly, started talking up the eight-time All-Star and former slam dunk champ as a sure-fire Hall of Famer whose basketball IQ soared as high as his dunks used to.
"Guys who are eight-time All-Stars are Hall of Famers. And there's a reason," Carlisle said shortly after the delayed start to the season in late December. "He's been a great player and he knows how to play. He's going to fit in great with what we're doing just because he's a hell of a basketball player."
It's hard to say that Carlisle wasn't right, to an extent.
Carter got off to a strong start, burying 3-pointers at a team-best clip, flashing a nice post-up game and scrapping on defense all the while giving the Mavs the versatility to play him at shooting guard or small forward. But after the All-Star break Carter started to slow down, and other than a brief hot streak, the swoon carried into the playoffs where he shot just 29.3 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc.
All-in-all, Carter started 40 of the 61 games he played, when at this point in his career he's probably most effective as a scorer off the bench where he can take advantage of smaller and less talented reserves.
Carter will turn 36 in January, and the odds are that he will celebrate his birthday in a Mavs uniform.
The Countdown rolls on at No. 8 ...
Vince Carter got off to a strong start but slowed down after the All-Star break after his minutes were bumped up because of injuries.
VINCE CARTER Pos.: SG/SF
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-6, 220
Experience: 14 years
Age: 35 (Jan. 26, 1977)
2011-12 stats: 5.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 18.7 mpg
Contract status: Signed through 2013-14
2011-12 salary: $3 million
2012-13 salary: $3.1 million (partially guaranteed)
His story: Billed as half-man, half-amazing, Carter proved to be half-mortal in his first season with the Mavs. It can certainly be argued that injuries, particularly the broken finger that sidelined Delonte West for six weeks, played a part in Carter's decline. Carter was at his most effective when limited to about 25 minutes or less, but Carlisle had no choice but to keep him on the floor more through West's injury. Plus, Jason Kidd missed 18 games, mostly due to three separate injuries. Through the first 25 games, Carter logged 25 minutes or fewer 14 times, compared to 15 times in the final 36 games. Perhaps a better comparison though is the fact that he played 30 minutes or more just twice in those first 25 games, and 10 times in the final 36. It makes it difficult to argue that wear-and-tear didn't play a role in Carter's downturn or that playing fewer minutes consistently next season could serve him and the Mavs well.
His outlook: Carter is signed for the next two seasons at little more than $3 million for each, however his contract is not fully guaranteed. It is guaranteed enough for next season that, barring a major trade that would sweep him up, the odds are high that Carter will stick around here for at least one more season. One has to wonder though if the Mavs wouldn't be better off allotting Carter's minutes to younger players such as Rodrigue Beaubois (assuming he remains on the team), who the Mavs must get a full, healthy season out of to evaluate in what is essentially the final year of his deal, or to a player like Kelenna Azubuike. At this point, Carter would seem to be more of a last-piece-to-the-puzzle type that could bolster a contender's bench. But hey, who knows, depending on what transpires in free agency, the Mavs might or might not become such a squad.