Vince Carter Loving the Game Alongside Dwight Howard
And he'll be happy about it.
It didn't take Carter long during the preseason to realize that playing with a dominant center like Dwight Howard -- a luxury he never has had before -- will change the way he plays the game.
"This is going to be great situation for me. It's one I've never been in before,'' he said before Friday night's lopsided 123-86 exhibition victory over the Atlanta Hawks. "It's a luxury that will be pretty easy to get used to.''
Carter, an eight-time All Star with a career scoring average of 23.5 points, never has been past the second round of the playoffs, either, and only reached the postseason five times in his 11 years. Although he always led his team in scoring, he never had a great big man behind him.
He said the best previous center he played with was journeyman Antonio Davis in Toronto. Carter, 33, couldn't help but wonder how his career might have unfolded differently if he had played with Tim Duncan or Shaquille O'Neal or even Alonzo Mourning.
"I probably would have had a few (championships) by now,'' he said. "It would have been awesome. But I have no regrets. You play with the hand you're dealt, and do the best you can. You always wonder would it would be like, and now I'm getting that chance. I already know I'm going to like it.''
After splitting his career between Toronto and New Jersey, Carter has approached this season with a newfound enthusiasm. He played considerably more in the exhibition games (28.4 mpg) than he has in recent years, wanting to get comfortable with his new and improved teammates, particularly Howard. He also joined a roster that includes All-Stars Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson. Lewis will miss the first 10 games serving his NBA suspension, but once he returns, Carter knows he won't be seeing the ball nearly as much as he has in the past.
Carter did his usual scoring routine Friday night, making it look so easy by scoring 26 points in 27 minutes against the hapless Hawks.
"It's not so much a different role as I won't be doing it for as long each night. I won't have the ball 32-34 minutes a game trying to create for everyone else,'' he said. "I'll be playing off other people. Dwight will have the ball. Rashard will have the ball. Our short, little point guard will have the ball.''
Carter laughed because he was talking about Nelson, who was standing nearby. Carter sees this opportunity with Howard as his first real chance at winning a championship. It's also a way to change the perception that he has been more of a showman and a scorer than a real winner in his career.
With Howard attracting so much attention around the basket, Carter will have much easier scoring chances. And if this exhibition season was any indication, he still has plenty of lift in his legs.
"With Dwight, this is kind of easy. Just throw it in there, and he's like a vacuum, sucking in the defense and leaving room for everyone else,'' he said. "I know I'm going to like this.''