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Carter May Move Into Sixth-Man Role

Jan 10, 2010 – 12:17 AM
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Tim Povtak

Tim Povtak %BloggerTitle%

ORLANDO -- No one really believes that J.J. Redick is a better player than Vince Carter.

But he might be a better fit now for the Orlando Magic.

It took the absence of Carter – the seven-time All-Star who missed the game with a bruised shoulder – to snap the defending Eastern Conference champions back to life Saturday night, ending their longest losing streak in the past three seasons.

It was Saturday's victory that now has Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy seriously contemplating a lineup change that would include using Carter in reserve, a dramatic role change for one of the league's most popular players.

"Nobody is set (in the lineup) if you're losing,'' Van Gundy said. "You can only take losing for so long, then you do what you have to do.''

After dropping four consecutive games to teams with losing records, the Magic slapped down the Atlanta Hawks, who were challenging them for the lead in the Southeast Division.

And it happened without Carter, 32, who is mired in one of the worst slumps of his career. The turnaround Saturday was probably no coincidence.

Before the 113-81 victory even began, Van Gundy was lamenting the inability of his four best players – All-Stars Carter, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson – to play well together this season.

They have won just five of the 10 games they started together, which prompted the possible change-of-lineup discussion. They played the first 10 games without Lewis (suspension). They played 16 without Nelson (knee). And they played Saturday without Carter. They are 20-7 in those games.

"We have been quite a bit better this season when we've had at least one of those four guys out, '' Van Gundy said. "We just have not been very good with them – not nearly as good as we've played the rest of the games. I don't know if that's something where we need to get some more complementary players in there with them.''

Redick replaced Carter Saturday and scored 17 points. He hit seven of 12 shots and three of his six from 3-point range. Role playing forward Matt Barnes had 18 points.

"It (a lineup switch) is something you may have to look at, what some of the other guys bring a little bit better in terms of balance, guys who don't need plays called for them,'' Van Gundy said. "Part of it is guys in their roles and how they play. Instead of four guys who see themselves as scorers, you would get three and a couple guys who do other things.''

Carter becomes the most likely choice for a role change among the four. Howard is the best center in the league. Nelson is the co-captain and floor leader. Lewis is in the midst of a $118 million contract, and still in his prime. Carter is no longer among the best at his position and moving into the twilight of his career.

If Carter moves into a reserve role upon his return – expected at some point during an upcoming four-game West Coast swing – it would not be unprecedented. He played in reserve one game earlier this season after returning from an ankle injury – and the Magic beat Charlotte.

In the first 11 years of his career, Carter played as a reserve in seven games, including a career-high four during the 2007-08 season.

Carter, who came to Orlando this summer from New Jersey in a multi-player trade, has said several times that he was willing to adapt his game to fit with the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Redick, now in his fourth NBA season, has improved significantly since entering the league as the No. 11 pick of the 2006 Draft. Van Gundy consistently has been singing his praises this season.

"I'd anticipate for now staying the way we are, and getting guys to play better, but at some point, if it's not coming around, you do whatever you have to do,'' Van Gundy said. "Right now, J.J. is very familiar with how we want to play, and he's played with these guys. We've come to trust him, and by we, I mean not only the coaches, but his teammates.''
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