DALLAS — As the Memphis Grizzlies took the floor for shootaround, the players gravitated to one of the corners of the American Airlines Center court.
“This is the spot, right?” they asked Vince Carter.
“Nah, a little bit over,” Carter replied, basking in the memory of his finest moment with the Dallas Mavericks, that Game 3-winning buzzer-beater in last season’s playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs.
Carter has many fond memories from his three years in Dallas, when the eight-time All-Star reinvented himself as one of the NBA’s best sixth men.
The 37-year-old Carter hoped to continue — and finish — his career with the Mavericks, but that’s not the way free agency played out. The Grizzlies swooped in with a take-it-or-leave-it, three-year, $12.3 million offer for Carter while the Mavs were waiting to see if the Houston Rockets would exercise their rights to match Dallas’ deal for Chandler Parsons.
Carter, recognizing that the Mavs couldn’t come close to matching Memphis’ deal if Parsons landed in Dallas, opted to take the sure thing from the Grizzlies, a Western Conference playoff team that needed a sixth man with his scoring and playmaking abilities.
“They offered that young man a lot of money,” Carter said, referring to Parsons. “I kind of understood how it goes from there. It’s a business. I get it, so there’s no hard feelings or anything like that. I understand how it goes. It was a great situation, a great offer from Memphis. It was kind of like, ‘If I pass on this now, what would be left here for me?’ Obviously not much. Had to move on.”
Carter believes the Mavs got significantly better this offseason and can make a deep run in the playoffs. He certainly doesn’t blame the Dallas front office for making the versatile, skilled Parsons, who turns 26 this week, its top priority.
“You can’t pass on a guy like that,” Carter said.
Carter appreciates that the Mavs didn’t pass on him at a time when his stock wasn’t high after disappointing stints in Orlando and Phoenix.
“[Mark] Cuban believed in me in the beginning when I guess a lot of people felt like I was just done or couldn’t play anymore,” Carter said. “I just got better and better. A lot of guys think when you get to that age, how can you get better? But I think I got better. I fit with this team. I think it worked and coach made it work. I was just glad to be a part of it.”
Carter, who signed a three-year, $9.3 million deal with Dallas after the lockout, ended up being a great bargain for the Mavs. He averaged 12.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists during his three seasons in Dallas.
“He was great for us for three years,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “He was a great leader, set a great example for all the young guys that we had during that time, and he was a great player. He easily could have been Sixth Man of the Year last year.”
Maybe Carter will be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate this season. But it’ll be in Memphis, not Dallas.