|Not many players were as good, exciting, and explosive in their prime as Vince Carter was. Also, not many have been as effective a role player after their prime as Vince has been.|
Vince Carter, one of the most dominant stars of the late '90s and 2000s, reached 37 years of age this past Sunday, reminding all of us just how quickly NBA players' careers come and go.
Since he was drafted fifth overall in the 1998 Draft, out of North Carolina, by the Warriors and was immediately traded to the Raptors for college teammate Antawn Jamison, Vince has cycled through five different teams, wowing fans in the process. While with Toronto and New Jersey (and even the United States Olympic team), Vinsanity dazzled with insane jams that flat-out embarrassed the players unfortunate enough to try to defend them (looking at you, Fredric Weis).
However, as good as he was in the beginning of his career, Vince has certainly taken a step back as his storied –yet title-less– NBA career has progressed from stardom to role-playerdom.
From the 2009 trade from the Nets that sent him to his hometown Orlando Magic, Carter's numbers gradually declined until his 2011-12 season with the Mavericks, after which they saw a slight uptick.
They clearly have not rebounded to his All-Star days, but the 11.4 points per game he is averaging in 24.2 minutes with the Mavericks this season are enough to earn his significant playing time off the bench for Rick Carlisle.
From Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "He's [Vince Carter] a gym rat," Carlisle said. "It's not an accident. Guys that work this hard have a chance to have this longevity. He's obviously a big part of what we're doing."
He may not have the pure dunking ability, strength, stamina, or athleticism he used to, but there is no doubting that Vince Carter is a useful player who can provide some scoring punch for a playoff team like the Dallas Mavericks, even as a reserve.
A lot of stars, Carter's cousin Tracy McGrady comes to mind, are not able to transition smoothly from franchise face to bench player in the span of one of two years. Carter has been able to do that with grace and effectiveness, which is almost–but not equally–as impressive as his 25+ point-per-game seasons of the early portion of his career.