Monday, March 18th, 2002
Sitting in the cafeteria of my school this past Thursday, I heard a rare
discussion about the NBA. Wondering if I should report this strange interest
in the NBA to David Stern, I walked over and began to listen to their
conversation. For some reason or another, they seemed to think that there
was going to be an expansion NBA team in Hartford. Clearly not realizing
the rules of an expansion draft, they were deciding which player they wanted
on the team first.
"Tim Duncan," said one.
"Shaquille O'Neal," said another. I don't really know which one of these
two would make a better start to a franchise, but that isn't the topic of
this article. (For the record, take the younger Duncan.)
Then came the comment that made me want to write an article. "I'd take Vince
Carter over any of those guys to start my team." You'd take what?
Okay, it's better than saying that you would start a team around Milt Palacio.
And yeah, I'd take VC over my hometown favorite, Vitaly Potapenko.
Starting a team with Vince Carter? Well, there is no need to forecast into
the future whether or not that would be a good idea. Fortunately, there is
a team that did start with Vince Carter, and they are not very good.
No supporting cast? Nah, the Raptors have a pretty good supporting cast,
although not great. Antonio Davis is arguably the best center in the East.
No supporting cast is why UNC Wilmington lost to Indiana even though Brett
Blizzard played the game of his life. No supporting cast for Toronto? Merely
an excuse to cover up the poor play of Carter.
Carter is a brilliant talent. At North Carolina, Carter was the one bringing
the excitement in Chapel Hill, next to the steadying hand of Antawn Jamison.
I was a Carter fan, wearing my #15 Carolina blue jersey, as Carter shook
the Arena with every dunk or three pointer. Carter had fun back then, and
he was a fun player to watch.
Year one of life in Toronto was a good one for Vince Carter. He won the Rookie
of the Year, and made everybody wonder why he was picked behind Antawn Jamison.
He even seemed to have fun that year. His arrival revitalized Toronto Raptors
basketball. (Is it possible to revitalize basketball when this was the first
time Toronto had been good?)
Then, something changed. Vince Carter was suddenly too cool for me. Yeah,
the average fan was no longer good enough for Vince Carter. Vince became
a superstar in media attention, but began to decline on the court. Take the
Olympics. Is it possible to play an entire Olympics without smiling once?
Sale and Pelletier got screwed this year, and last time I checked, they smiled
quite a bit, anyway. Nope ... not Carter. Carter played every game as if
he was a man on a mission. Actually, Carter looked more like the escaped
inmate from County Jail that the U.S. allowed to play in the Olympics. He
became the image of the Dirty American.
Back to the present time. Carter is still scoring, no doubt, and Carter is
still playing angry. Actually, Carter is playing in pain, too ... something
that he won't let you forget. Some on his team try to defend him, including
Davis, who said that Carter often needs to conserve his energy on defense
so that he can score on offense. Well, this just in. Paul Pierce on the Celtics
plays a mean defense and still scores just as much as Carter. And, after
wins or big shots, Pierce and teammate Antoine Walker often look as if they
... won? Weird concept.
Vince, you are a good player. Yet, until you realize that you are one of
the luckiest men alive, a talented NBA basketball player, whereas I am just
a student writing articles voluntarily, you will never take the next step
into being a team leader. Your coach, Lenny Wilkins, lost control of an Atlanta
team that had become too young, a sign of the new times. Well, Vince, before
Lenny loses control in Toronto, perhaps you should take a cue from the Hall
of Fame coach ... and play as if you love the game.