DALLAS – Vince Carter threw down a spectacular two-handed reverse jam launched from a baseline drive, a series of improbable, gravity-defying maneuvers that seemed to unfold in slow motion and even astonished the 36-year-old who made it happen.
“It was an out-of-body experience I guess. It surprised me,” Carter said, smiling. “I can’t remember the last time I dunked a ball backwards. I think the last time J-Kidd threw me a lob in New Jersey.”
It was one of two highlight reel dunks for Carter, who crafted another sensational outing with 17 points, three assists and three rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. His efficient scoring included three 3-pointers — one that finally provided some separation at 88-84 with 6:19 to go — and a 22-foot dagger with 26.9 seconds left that sealed a 106-99 win for the Dallas Mavericks over the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night.
Carter, who celebrated his birthday on Jan. 26, is in the midst of a majestic run that should — but likely won’t — put him in the conversation as a top sixth man, and will continue to remind contenders that Vinsanity is turning back the clock on a near-nightly basis.
This performance came while he still battled an illness that had him so congested that he struggled to breathe and left him shivering on the bench. It had knocked him totally out of Monday’s blowout loss at Oklahoma City and dragged him to the doctor on Tuesday.
Over his last eight games, Carter has averaged 17.6 points on 49.0 percent field-goal shooting and 45.0 percent from beyond the arc. At the start of this run he poured in a season-high 29 points in a heartbreak, overtime loss to Oklahoma City. After that game, coach Rick Carlisle bristled at a question about rising demand for the veteran.
“A couple days later he pulled me aside and said all the trade rumors, because I didn’t know much about it, he said it’s not going to happen,” Carter told NBA.com after Wednesday’s win that pushed Dallas’ record to to 21-28 as it began a massively important run of seven of its next eight games at home.
“I’m happy where I am. I feel like my role here is needed,” Carter continued. “It’s a perfect position as a mentor, as a player, as a spark. I’m OK with that. I feel like for me, if they need me to start I’ll do it. If they need me to come off the bench, I’ll do it. I’m still going to play my same game and be effective. I’m a team guy and I want to see our team have success.”
There’s no doubt that teams are and will inquire about Carter’s availability. Dallas reportedly didn’t get involved as a third team in the Memphis-Toronto trade that sent Rudy Gay to the Raptors because it wouldn’t part with Carter. Detroit took the role and acquired point guard Jose Calderon from Toronto.
A league source Wednesday characterized the odds of Dallas moving Carter by the Feb. 21 as a “long shot.”
Which Carter said suits him just fine, despite the Mavs needing a significant run just to get into playoff contention.
Carter signed a three-year contract with the Mavs prior to the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season as part of the franchise’s retooling following the 2011 championship. His hopes of helping Dallas repeat didn’t materialize, but he had found a good fit. When the club decided to bring him back this season at $3.1 million, it fully guaranteed his final season next year at $3.2 million.
Carter’s contract is certainly attractive, but with Dallas uninterested in taking back salary and unlikely to net a major asset, there’s little reason to trade him when the club still believes it can make a push into playoff contention.
“There’s a reason he’s such an important guy to us,” Carlisle said following Wednesday’s win. “People key on his offensive stuff, but he’s just a big team guy. He’s one of our leaders.”
Two seasons ago with Phoenix, Carter’s career seemed to be closing quickly as his production continually dropped.
“Sometimes you get on a team where your talent isn’t needed, utilized,” Carter said. “This is a different type of offense here. I don’t know, I felt pretty good then and I will say I do feel even better. I put my work in after that summer because it kind of bothered me to even hear somebody think that or say it at that point in time because I still felt at that point physically able to contribute, to be effective for any team.”
And now as the rumors might fly, Carter reiterated that chasing a title at this stage in his career is not his top priority.
“If it [a trade] happens, it happens, I mean it’s nothing you can control, but I leave that for them [the Mavs’ front office],” Carter said. “And they know, I’ve talked to them, they know, I’ve said to them before, I’m satisfied here. They’ve accepted me with open arms, given me an opportunity to be who I am, do what I do and kind of help our team, our players grow while being the player I am.”