Vince Carter likely on his way out after showing his age in the desert

PHOENIX — Vince Carter wouldn’t be such a bad player if he didn’t used to be Vince Carter.

You remember him, the guy who jumped over a seven-footer, delivered an all-time dunk contest performance and prompted Suns head coach Alvin Gentry to describe him as perhaps the most athletic performer to ever grace a basketball court in his prime.

But Vince Carter most certainly wasn’t that Vince Carter for the Phoenix Suns.

This Vince Carter could score you 30 every once in a while, but things weren’t pretty when he wasn’t hot and he even when he was Carter often shot himself out of his hot streak.

That’s why Vinsanity, as he used to be called, shot just 42.2 percent from the floor (his worst percentage since Toronto) to go with a 52.8 true shooting percentage, his lowest such mark since 2003-04.

All that led to Carter’s PER dropping just below the 15.00 average mark at 14.89 for the first time since John Hollinger began tracking it on in 2002-03. Before last year’s 17.11 he had never been below 18.9.

Although Carter was the only Sun without an MVP trophy to finish with a positive adjusted plus/minus rating (just barely at 0.58), it’s safe to say Carter’s decline is in full bloom.

The Suns acquired Carter to replace Jason Richardson’s team-leading scoring, and on the nights he did that they were a handful. But Carter took far too many bad shots, was allergic to the rim (only 21.1 percent of his shots came at the tin, a certifiable decrease from his past few years) and overall looked like a shell of his former All-Star self.

Still, Gentry said, “I think that it was about what we anticipated from the standpoint of there was going to be highs and lows with him. … It can happen and he can do it, I just don’t think we can count on him being that guy night in and night out.”

Looking ahead to next season the Suns have an easy decision on their hands as things pertain to Carter. They can either pay him his $18.3 million salary or pay just the $4 million of the salary that is guaranteed by June 30 and waive him (the guaranteed $4 mil will count against the Suns’ 2011-12 cap regardless).

KTAR’s Bryan Gibberman has made the argument that the Suns could try to use Carter as a massive expiring contract, but this is 2012, not 2010, so it’s doubtful a team with Knicks-level desperation will come along.

With the likely salary restrictions brought along by the new CBA the Suns would be severely hamstrung in making other moves, and that’s not worth the possibility that some team will make you a monster offer for his expiring deal.

What that means is barring the biggest surprise since Denver beat Seattle in ‘94, Vince Carter has played his last game as a member of the Phoenix Suns.

“He understands that his contract presents a challenge for us, and we’re going to be open and honest with him,” Lon Babby said.

Said Carter: “After 13 years in the league you just say ‘whatever happens, happens.’ I can’t worry about it. I’d love to come back. I love the friendship here with each one of these guys. I feel comfortable knowing what’s going on and what’s expected. Hopefully it works out. I hope you’re not thinking you’re going to get much more out of that from me than that.”

Even if Babby were Carter’s former agent (which he is not), Vince must understand the economics of a situation in which the Suns cannot pay an exorbitant salary to a player who is middling at best and only getting worse.

Considering the inevitable that this month will mark Carter’s last as a member of the organization, the question now is what kind of team would he fit with.

Perhaps the toughest transition in the league is that from superstar to role player, and it’s one that Carter must embrace if he wants to continue his career in the NBA. He need not look too far down the Suns’ clubhouse to see Grant Hill, a player who barely resembles the superstar of Fila/Sprite vintage but is still very effective.

However, based on his play last season I question what kind of contender would find a spot for him. Streaky, inefficient scoring is not generally the kind of thing a contender needs, but perhaps he can find a squad in need of some veteran scoring punch off the bench.

Otherwise I wonder if he will sign somewhere irrelevant like Iverson in Memphis (we all know how well that went) or T-Mac in Detroit.

As much as Suns fans criticized Carter this season, he did what a 34-year-old Vince Carter would be expected to do.

Sure, it would be great if he appeared to care more often (in more than his cliché-filled interviews), but it was always wishful thinking to expect Carter to just be rejuvenated by the desert and Nash and turn into a bonafide go-to player, a role the Suns never ended up filling.

Instead he was an inconsistent, inefficient gunner who did not resemble Vince Carter often enough.

Tags: Vince Carter

  • Phil

    Good riddance. The interesting question for Mike is – who do we think will start at the 2 for the Suns next year? J-Chill? A free agent? And if so, who?

  • Michael Schwartz

    Just because there are so many ways this could go, you’ve got to think the incumbent Dudley is the favorite. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Suns go after Michael Redd for a low-risk, incentive-based deal and see if he can come back from his latest injury.

  • Steve

    I’m all for Michael Redd if he’s willing to sign for the minimum. I know there isn’t a whole lot of hope that he can regain his form, but even the slimmest chance would be worth the minimum. It would be a heck of a lot better to pay Redd the minimum than paying Carter his $18M.

    I used to LOVE VC, but his unwillingness to change his game to match his athletic decline has been painful to watch. He was the most exciting player since Jordan, and one of the top 5 most exciting guys to watch along with guys like Maravich and Erving. That said, I don’t want him anywhere near my team. Here’s to hoping he blows up Miami next year.

  • Giancarlo Paraliticci

    @ Michael…interesting point, Michael Red along the medical magic staff of the suns could do wonders!…that is the same the suns did with hill…
    Also what are the chances that orlando could not make a deal to J-Rich and he will be back with the suns if the suns pay him? He did have Good years here, in this system, he was the leading scorer, if he comes along with the chemistry with nash and gortah in center, suns sure look Scary!
    what do you think ?

  • GOsuns

    I bet chicago would be interested in vince but we should pay the 4 mil and move on

  • Cam

    Do you think that the Magic might be interested in Two-Time after their first round collapse this last year. Jameer Nelson isn’t the point guard they need to keep Dwight Howard in town and Chris Paul won’t be a free agent until ’12. With only one year left on his contract Nash would seem like a no-brainer for the Magic. He could facilitate the pick and roll with Howard and provide some scoring too. I just wonder if they have a sour taste in their mouths after the last swap with the Suns. It would make for an interesting headline if they were involved in another trade together so soon after the midseason trade. Go Suns.

  • Igor

    Is there any change that The Suns re-sign LB ?! I love his baskeball. I read that LB is not happy being in Toronto he wants to come back to the valley.

  • Renee

    This is from a Chad Ford chat. Do you know if the Suns are gonna do workouts and what is your opinion on Chad’s answer?

    Guani (Boston)

    The suns have no workout scheduled, are they trading the pick AGAIN? Have you heard anything other than they are going with defense? Thanks Chad
    Chad Ford (1:44 PM)

    Bit strange, but it’s early. They could get it going closer to the draft. If they don’t do any workouts, then I’d be concerned. The team is in a very weird position. They are good enough to compete for an eighth seed, but probably need to blow up and rebuild. They would, but they think the backlash from trading Nash would be enormous and … it’s not at all clear that Nash will get them something of major value in return. Not sure which direction Lon Babby takes it … he inherited a very tough situation.

  • Jacob

    I think the Suns will go after Jamaal Crawford. Honestly, I hope they don’t go after a shooting guard this offseason because I think that once VC is out, we’re okay at the two wing positions. Dudley, Pietrus, Childress, and Hill isn’t great, but it’s not awful, and it’s really defensively oriented. Plus, they all get playing time! Wooo! I hope they go after Nene this offseason, I really hope they do.. but if not, Kris Humphries and David West are solid options. Knowing the Suns though, they won’t go after anyone amazing and they’ll draft another defensive bigman and hope that one current player can turn into a prime scorer.

  • Michael Schwartz

    @Giancarlo I feel it might take a bit more than the minimum, but certainly some kind of low-base, high-incentive deal could net Redd As for J-Rich, it just depends on his asking price. I figured he would ask for $10 mil a year for at least three or four years and at that price he’s not worth it for Phoenix. Obviously he fits with the team, but I would be pretty surprised if he ends up back here.

    @Cam I’ve been saying for a while that Orlando would be the best fit for Nash. Along with what you said, Dwight would make Nash less of a defensive liability and then Orlando has lots of shooters to space the floor for him as any Nash team ideally needs. Orlando could use Nash/fit him in better than any other good team in the league.

    @Igor Sure, it’s possible and again dependent on the price point. The Suns couldn’t afford him realistically at $7 mil a year. Even now they seem to have enough wings, but if he was willing to sign for cheap always a possibility. Still, I wouldn’t bet on it.

    @Jacob I don’t see Jamal Crawford being the answer, especially with Babby talking about the need to improve defensively. Mr. Kardashian would make for a nice platoon with Frye at the four. Before the injury, I thought David West would be a perfect fit in Phoenix but at this point I bet he rebuilds his value in New Orleans and hits the market in 2012. Not sure the Suns have the budget for Nene.

  • Freddy

    I Like M. Redd

    Good ridance V. Carter.

  • shazam

    “the question now is what kind of team would he fit with.”…the answer is who cares as long as its not us.