Sacramento Kings

NBA Beat: Eight-time All-Star Carter adjusts to sixth-man role with Mavs

There is a generation of fans young enough not to remember Vince Carter as one of the NBA’s 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 doesn’t get off the floor like that nearly as often. He’s not even a starter for Dallas. But Carter, 37, has carved out a role with the Mavericks that’s put him in the running for Sixth Man of the Year.

Carter said it wasn’t 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.

“It’s 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 can’t do it.”

Carter is averaging 12.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists for the Mavericks, who have been one of the NBA’s surprising teams by staying in playoff contention.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said “occasionally” a player of Carter’s stature adjusts to being a reserve.

“Not usually with the willingness he’s done it and the enthusiasm and sort of exuberance, but he’s a unique guy,” Carlisle said. “He’s 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 it’s difficult to adjust to not being on the court for tip -off. Carter agrees.

“Oh, yeah, it’s tough, but at this point in my career, I just want to win and dominate in my time on the floor,” Carter said. “I’m able to transform that into less minutes but effective minutes, and that’s what it’s all about. I’ve always said with the sixth man it’s not about the points you score but the difference you make for your team, and that’s 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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Yes, the Charlotte Bobcats play in the Eastern Conference. Yes, they have given up 60-point games to two players this season.

But, the Bobcats are headed to the playoffs.

Charlotte, which was 21-61 last season, is 41-39 and has clinched a postseason berth.

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.

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Indiana center Roy Hibbert has become increasingly ineffective at the wrong time.

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Last words

“I don’t think they knew what to do with him. We didn’t know what to do with him, either.” – Minnesota coach Rick Adelman to reporters after Corey Brewer’s unlikely 51-point effort in a win over Houston.

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