DALLAS -- With the season quickly winding down, the Dallas Mavericks have started a campaign to try to put Vince Carter in the running for the NBA's 6th Man of the Year Award.
“He's really a terrific, all-around player and really has been his whole career,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “In the role that we have him in, it’s not like it’s just a scoring role. He'll be one of a few guys that will get strong consideration.”
“I know I'm in good competition, but for me it’s just regardless of it. I just want to do my job and while doing that, good things like that can happen for you so hopefully it works out,” Carter said.
Carter is an eight-time All Star. He won a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and in his 16th season he is the oldest man on the Mavericks roster.
He took over the sixth man role when Jason Terry left after the 2012 season. It's a role he's embraced from the outset. Other players, especially the younger ones, follow his lead.
“Yeah, for sure, especially when a guy says 'yeah when I was in middle school, I had your poster up,'” Carter says.“It dates you a little bit, but at the same time I accept it. I'm cool with it. I’m one with it now. At first I struggled with it, a lot actually. I'd go home like 'golly gee, I can't believe this.' Now I'm okay with it. It's helped. It's pushed me."
“It's not easy to do what he's doing, but he wanted to compete and that's good,” says Mavericks guard Jose Calderon. “When you've still got that feel that you've got to compete, to try to get better, to try to help your teammates, that's great. He's one of the best teammates I’ve ever had and I've only been with for just a few months.”
“He's tremendous in what he brings to our team,” says Mavericks guard Devin Harris. "He brings leadership, his shooting ability, his court savvy, there are a lot of things that he does. He could start for a lot of different teams but he comes off the bench for us. He's invaluable to us.”
In the past, Dallas has had three players who have won the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Roy Tarpley was the first in 1988. Antawn Jamison won it 10 years ago in 2004. The most recent winner was Jason Terry in 2009, the man Carter replaced.
“It’s hard to do because it's totally different from starting the game,” Carter said. “You’re bringing energy or trying to find energy for your team if it’s missing. There are a lot of things that in the first year, I really sat back and observed. I failed. I had a tough times sometimes and I had great times. Once I was able to put it all together, and understand what a sixth man is supposed to be like, what that role is for this team, it worked out.”
Whether he wins the award or not, Carter admits father time is slowly catching up.
“Now some days, if you catch me on a day when I'm feeling back, I’m like hey buddy, this could be it,” Carter says. “Today, I feel great today. I enjoy the game, some guys are like hey you look like you could play five years. I can guarantee you right now on camera, I'm not playing five years. That's not going to happen.”
At age 37, Carter is not the oldest player in the league. That distinction belongs to Steve Nash. But he is eighth on that list. Regardless, of his age, Carter is still proving that he can be a valuable member of an NBA franchise.