Vince Carter talks Sixth ManVince Carter on what winning the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award would mean to him, how he's embraced that role here in Dallas, the history and prestige of the award and more.
Question: Did you consciously decide that you were going to focus on becoming a great bench player?
Answer: When I first came here, Coach and I talked about what my role was going to be. We have a lot of scoring power here in Dallas. I knew that coming in, and I told him that I would do whatever was asked of me to fulfill my role and to do my job. He basically told me that I would be great for the team off the bench. That I had the ability to give the team new life and a lot of energy off the bench. Being an older player and then hearing that I was the energy guy I was like, ‘Alright, whatever you say?!’ … But you know what, it has worked out for us. It really has been a challenge, but it is something that I am enjoying.
Q: Do you think historically that players of your caliber have been reluctant to become bench players?
A: Absolutely. I think guys that have been superstars, stars, or maybe even just starters on teams, have been reluctant or even refused to come off the bench. It is a hard thing to do. I am not going to say I did a happy dance when I started coming off the bench. It is a different world. It is like night and day. You know in the sports world, starting is so important to players. But to me, finishing the game is just as important. I mean, you can start a game but do you get to finish the game? For me, it was a tough pill to swallow not starting, but at the same time I still get to be a finisher. Not every night because we have so many players that can get the job done, but all-in-all I am still considered a finisher for our team.
Q: How do you get yourself ready to play from the bench?
A: Man, in the beginning it was really tough. The game would be starting and I would be sitting there thinking now what? How do I get myself going? It really was tough at first. But I started watching film of Jet (Jason Terry) and Vinnie Johnson. Guys that come in and start lighting it up as soon as they step on the floor. I just started seeing how they did it. Learned their pattern and just used it as my road map.
Q: You do a lot of coaching from the sidelines, is that to keep you engaged or more of a helping hand to your teammates?
A: Well, I think everyone can use a helping hand for sure. But I take pride in knowing the offense and defense. Knowing our coverage and where everyone needs to be. I think sometimes when you hear it coming from a teammate it might sink in better. As teammates, we are in the battle together. People always tell me that I am going to be a coach because I am always going into coaching mode. But I don’t think I want to be a coach. That’s weird right? I can’t see the future because I am still in the fire, but I don’t think I want to be a coach. And whether we are up or down, I am going to try and help to the end of every game. I live for it.
Q: Do you have more appreciation now of just how big of a superstar you were throughout your career?
A: Well, I appreciated it then for sure. But being older and watching how things work, you have a better understanding of what really was going on back then. Especially when guys from back then, or players coming into the league, talk about those times and how you might have influenced their careers. Plain and simple, it was fun. But I still use that feeling or mode when I play today. The walk from the bench to the scorer’s table it is a mental check of telling myself it is time to dominate. The mentality is still the same as back in my early days. My approach to the game is still attack mode, which helps me stay aggressive for the good of the team.
Q: Let’s be frank for a second, do you see value in the NBA 6th Man Award and do you want to win it?
A: Yes, I want to win it. Plain and simple. I think the buzz that was created last year about me winning the award brought the idea to my mind. And of course at the beginning of the year you don’t think of it, but as it starts to pop up again this year I wonder am I playing well enough to win it? Some of the things that we talked about before don’t really show up on the stat sheet. I just do everything I can to help the team win. I still want to play this game. I look at all of the players that have won the award in the past. J.R. Smith, Jet, Ginobili, and even Darrell Armstrong. I mean, I know that is going way back, but when I look at him and that team, he meant so much to them. Even when he wasn’t scoring or wasn’t having a good game, he still helped the team in a positive way by how he carried himself and how he would get things going into a play. I think the 6th Man Award is important to a team, maybe even as important as the MVP. It is not just about scoring. It is about making the right read defensively, or coming up with a big block, or being in good enough position to make a guy change his shot. Can I get to the lane and find the right guy with a pass? I challenge myself to do well in this position on every play.
Q: So this is a personal challenge within the game for you?
A: Absolutely, 100 percent. It’s about being productive. Like I have said all along. I challenge myself to do well in this position to help myself and help my team. I think when you come into the league you challenge yourself to be a starter, an All-Star, or possibly win an MVP. You want to be respected as a scorer or a dominate player and you work to make that happen. To me this is the same type of pressure that I put on myself as a bench player. Dominate, remember? So just to be talked about or considered as the 6th man with guys like Jamal Crawford who is one of the guys I love to watch… realistically, between him and Ginobili they should probably win it every year. Ginobili brings it all to the table. It is a tough competition so to even be talked about with these guys is great.
Q: Okay, last question… what about all the people that said your goose was cooked three years ago?
A: I remember, they were like stick a fork in him. Well, first of all, I just want to thank Cubes for giving me the opportunity to prove them wrong. I remember going through the lockout and just sitting there waiting to see if anyone was interested. A few teams called and said they were interested but they have to wait and see how their money shakes out or what they were going to do with their roster. Then you hear rumors about teams trying to decide between you or someone else, and they take the other guy. It was motivation for me. It made for some great summers. I had to work my ass off to prove I still have it. I think I have gotten better each year. I use my experience to dominate in a different way. It’s not about being the fastest or being able to jump the highest. It’s about being productive. I think I am doing that, and it’s because I look back at that time when everyone told me I should retire. Now I am being talked about as the 6th Man. It just makes you feel good and want to work harder.