A Daily Babble Production
As many of our dedicated readers are no doubt already aware, there generally isn't a lot of love for Vince Carter in this corner.
As a rule of thumb, I'm not thrilled with guys who loaf on the court and tip plays to opponents as an effort to get traded.
But there is no questioning that the guy is immensely talented and that he has put up some monster performances over his time in the league (hard to believe it's been ten years already). This combined with my distaste for the guy only makes his recent comments on the state of the Nets all the more intriguing.
According to Julian Garcia in Wednesday's New York Daily News, VC has been saying all the right things of late despite the Nets' clear lack of commitment to the present.
A sampling of Carter's thoughts:
On his confidence in management's plans and his interest in being in Jersey:
"I've never questioned what they're doing and I definitely want to be here," Carter said. "It's the way it goes. It's the business of basketball."
On playing on a team filled with youngsters:
"This is my opportunity to step up and be a leader on and off the court."
Carter also insists that he won't be pressuring the team to move him during the season, putting a nice bow on a set of comments that don't seem to jive particularly well with past behaviors of his. This is a guy who allegedly tipped off plays to opponents (as low as it gets as far as the on-court department of 'being a terrible teammate' is concerned) in his only prior stop, a guy who doesn't seem all that interested in being coached and routinely breaks plays. When he hasn't had his way, he has tended to get upset. The bad shots, sloppy passes (if any), jogging to kill fast breaks and lack of movement on defense often comes shortly after.
But while we've seen what VC can do when he decides he isn't interested, we've also seen what this guy can do when he wants to play. Which is why this looks to be the most compelling subplot of the Nets' season. While the team's low-cost acqusitions (Eduardo Najera, Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes) and hoard of mid-level youngsters (Yi Jianlian, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ryan Anderson, Sean Williams, Josh Boone, Brook Lopez) seem to indicate that the Nets are firmly in "Playing for LeBron in 2010" mode, there is an interesting opportunity in front of Carter, made possible by his apparent acceptance of the challenge in front of him through the above comments.
Despite my on-court dislike of Carter, he has not to my knowledge been accused of being a bad guy away from hoops. I also can't recall whether Carter made any similar sets of comments in Toronto before turning himself into persona non grata up north of the border. But the fun here will come in seeing just how sincere he is.
For all his flaws, VC can do some incredible stuff on a basketball court. He has averaged better than 24 points per game in six of his ten seasons. His passing vision is excellent for a swingman, and he has dished out better than 4 assists per game for his career (while grabbing 5.5 boards to boot). He can shoot the long ball (37.5 percent for his career, three seasons better than 40 percent from deep), and at 32, he can still get to the tin and throw down hard.
More than anything, this guy is explosive. He can put teams on his back, like he did for an 11-game stretch last spring, in which he put up 30-plus points four times and scored less than 25 just twice, with both of those games being 22-point efforts. Vince has the capability to put on some unbelievable individual displays, and if he's really into it, he has the right skill set to not only get his points but to help make the guys around him better as well.
That isn't to say that this Nets team will be some sort of Eastern power no matter what VC does. But he certainly has the ability to make them better than many expect if he commits to doing so. For now, it will be nothing short of compelling to monitor which Vince we get in 2008-09 - the one who doesn't care, the one out on an individual crusade or the one on a crusade for the sake of carrying a team. The first isn't worth the three-digit ticket price I once paid to scalp a seat to see him play on New Year's Day. The second can be an amazing viewing experience, and the third can really be one of the best all-around players in the league.
It's which Vince the Nets get that could write the biggest part of the story in the Swamp this season.