There is a generation of fans young enough not to remember Vince Carter as one of the NBAs most exciting players.
His dunk over French 7-footer Frederic Weis during the 2000 Summer Olympics has millions of YouTube views.
Carter putting his arm through the rim on a dunk during the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest is still a must-see highlight on YouTube.
These days, the eight-time All-Star doesnt get off the floor like that nearly as often. Hes not even a starter for Dallas. But Carter, 37, has carved out a role with the Mavericks thats put him in the running for Sixth Man of the Year.
Carter said it wasnt easy adjusting to a reserve role, not something a player of his caliber is often asked to do.
He is 26th all-time in scoring with 23,171 points, seven shy of passing Adrian Dantley for 25th.
Carter said once he understood and embraced his role, he knew he could still have an impact off the bench.
Its just pride, he said. Being able to put your pride aside first is the toughest thing. Your minutes are cut back and your shots are cut back compared to being a starter, but you can still be the player you are. You just have to fit it into the confines of a sixth-man role, and a lot of guys cant do it.
Carter is averaging 12.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists for the Mavericks, who have been one of the NBAs surprising teams by staying in playoff contention.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said occasionally a player of Carters stature adjusts to being a reserve.
Not usually with the willingness hes done it and the enthusiasm and sort of exuberance, but hes a unique guy, Carlisle said. Hes a great person. He loves to play. He wants to be a part of success.
Carlisle said Carter is going to be a Hall of Famer but understands the importance of his role.
Longtime starters say its difficult to adjust to not being on the court for tip -off. Carter agrees.
Oh, yeah, its tough, but at this point in my career, I just want to win and dominate in my time on the floor, Carter said. Im able to transform that into less minutes but effective minutes, and thats what its all about. Ive always said with the sixth man its not about the points you score but the difference you make for your team, and thats what I try to do. I want my minutes to count when I step on the floor for the team.
With all the accolades Carter has collected, he said winning the Sixth Man of the Year award would be special.
It would be great, he said. That trophy would mean as much as Rookie of the Year and the dunk contest.
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When owner Michael Jordan fired coach Mike Dunlap after one season, it appeared to be the latest in a series of questionable decisions. But hiring Steve Clifford as coach and signing Al Jefferson a move some analytic types mocked to pair with Kemba Walker have turned out to be the right moves.
Indiana center Roy Hibbert has become increasingly ineffective at the wrong time.
Hibbert is averaging just 3.2 rebounds in his last nine games while shooting 32.9 percent.
He isnt the only slumping Pacer, but the biggest player on the court has to grab more rebounds.
I dont think they knew what to do with him. We didnt know what to do with him, either. Minnesota coach Rick Adelman to reporters after Corey Brewers unlikely 51-point effort in a win over Houston.