Where Damon Stoudamire gets his pot.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Vince Carter, in the eyes of some, has pieced together an overachieving season (with his 32nd birthday falling at the end of January) to help bolter New Jersey - a team I unequivocally thought would be terrible. And for some bizarre and deep-rooted reason I still become fascinated with anything Carter-related. Which is why I think this video of his ejection indicates that his 23 points-per-game is an early season fluke and an indicator of the frustration he might be feeling as his career enters the slippery slope of aging.

The most obvious reason for Carter's increased output can be attributed to Devin Harris's emergence as a top-tier NBA point guard. One thing we've quickly determined from Harris is that he's not your prototypical PG, at least in the role of being a pass-first facilitator. His assist numbers are pretty average for a player with the ball constantly in his possession. But he takes the heat off Carter. No longer does a team shut Carter down and trample over the Nets. If Carter is the number one option in an offence and the top priority of opposing defences, the attention directed his way will usually cripple him.

(I hate to slam Carter like that because (a) he was the first superstar for the Toronto Raptors and helped Toronto get taken seriously for basketball on an international scale, (b) in his prime with T.O. he was an electrifying and streaky offensive talent, and (c) the sheer volume of Carter highlight footage. But he's still the unlikeable guy with questionable desire and a tendency to quit on his team.)

Carter has enjoyed some success as a number-one option in New Jersey. Frequently he torches his former club, often at the Air Canada Centre. But can you remember any big game situations - we're talking playoff ball here - where Carter could not be stopped and willed his team to victory? He had some decent Raptor moments, but they were still a ragtag bunch who repeatedly were knocked out in first- and second-rounds.

Now with Harris torching Eastern Conference point guards on a nightly basis, the opposing team is more focused on keeping Harris out of the paint. Which, if you were the competition, would you prefer to happen: Harris driving to the tin and shooting mid-range jumpers or Carter settling to shoot outside threes?

You can't deny that Carter has taken opportunity of his new situation. He might be the most athletic and offensively accomplished (secretly) second banana players we've seen in some time.

But Carter is soon 32. He's always one injury away from missing significant time. He lacks the speed and athleticism from earlier in his career. (This, especially, was evident during last year's season when Carter, on the rare occasion, made a drive to the basket. Only now he can't blow by defenders for high-percentage field goals and settles for obscure maneuvers to get off his shot.) Things can't get much better for Carter than 23 ppg. Down is the only place he can go.

Which brings me back to this video. Now we don't get very much out of the videos outside of Carter barking to the referee a little, him getting T'd up, and then being escorted from the floor. But from published reports Carter was escorted from the floor by a Nets security member after initially refusing to leave.

Could Carter be reaching basketball senility? That time in an experienced players career when they lose it on the floor? Just to clarify what 'losing' it means, this is when a player gets angry and (a) has a spirited verbal exchange with a fan he wants to bludgeon, (b) fights an opposing player, (c) fights his own teammates, or (d) gets tossed from a New Year's Eve game in the second quarter for no apparent reason and needs Lawrence Frank to hold him back from a referee.

This doesn't spell good things for Carter. And why wouldn't his career - albeit successful for the moment - be headed for tough times? The New Jersey Nets could be moving to Brooklyn within a couple years. The future Brooklyn Nets should be a player in the Lebron sweepstakes, thus no room for Carter in his athletic senescence. Plus New Jersey isn't exactly a basketball state willing to get behind its athletes and inspire its players. When I watch a game being played in NJ the atmosphere resembles a sparsely attended Junior Varsity game. It's like the Nets play opponents in a local YMCA. There's very little in the way of cheering and excitement. You'd almost forgive Carter for maybe not giving it 100% every night.

Then he makes a wincing face of pain after landing on a defender's ankle and your forgiveness fades.

No comments: