DALLAS — By definition a veteran is a person who has had long experience in a particular field. Finishing up his 16th NBA season, Dallas Mavericks sixth man Vince Carter personifies the meaning of the word.
Making the transition from eight-time All-Star to the leader off the Mavericks’ bench, Carter set a tone for his younger teammates with a workman-like approach. And even at the tender age of 37, Carter says he has no plans of slowing down any time soon.
“My love for the game hasn’t changed since I was a younger guy,” Carter said following the Mavs’ first-round exit from the playoffs in seven games against the San Antonio Spurs. “I want to win even more now than then, just because I’ve seen it all and been around it. I enjoy competing and playing with guys who want to win and want to compete.”
But it’s his selflessness and dedication to keeping his body well-conditioned for the grueling season that Carter hopes stuck in the minds of the Mavs’ young contributors most.
Serving as the hero of Game 3 after hitting a 3-pointer as time expired to lift the Mavericks to a 109-108 victory and a 2-1 series edge, Carter showed that he has plenty left in the tank while upping his scoring average from 11.9 points per game in the regular season to 12.6 in the playoffs. He also played in 81 games for the second straight season, showcasing durability even as the team’s elder statesman.
Set to enter free agency on July 1 alongside fellow veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, the ageless Carter now hopes to make a return to the Mavericks next season. More importantly, he would like to see the Mavs’ veteran core build on this year’s success, after helping to push the top-seeded Spurs to the brink of elimination.
“It’s a veteran group and you have guys that are willing. It’s no egos,” Carter explained. “Everybody put that ego stuff aside. It wasn’t about how many points I can score … or am I going to get recognition. It was about how can I help the team, and when you have veterans like that coming in it helps and it makes it a little easier. You know, I think Dirk being a great leader and the Hall of Famer that he is, he sets the tone. I mean, he’s coming to practice to work and we push each other. And then you have other veteran guys, regardless of if they’re new or not, who have the same mentality. It made things easier, and it’s not as many guys that you have to bring along now.
“I think guys have really put the work in and are willing to do what it takes. It’s just great to see our older guys and the work they put in behind the scenes that people don’t see. It is just amazing and it’s for the good of the team. You know, everybody wants to play as many games (as possible) and want to be a part of a winning franchise. And we all know how important we, the older guys, are as for as just leading the way. Guys put their work in and guys are stretching, hitting the weights or whatever needs to be done. It was just great, ’cause it set the tone for what the young guys can do now.”