Transforming from all-star to role player can be a begrudging process for NBA players used to a certain level of personal success on the court. Not every player is capable of making the transition in a smooth and non-disruptive fashion that benefits their current team. But the Dallas Mavericks are graced with two veterans who understand their time in the spotlight has passed and have embraced the responsibility of fitting in.
Vince Carter and Shawn Marion have a combined 11 all-star appearances between them but both are far removed for their days of glory as primary options on their team. The duo willingly defers to the undisputed leader of the Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki, without even the slightest hint of a power struggle. There is some irony in relationship since Nowitzki is at the tail-end of his status as an elite player, despite being the same age as Marion and only two years younger than Carter.
The guy once dubbed as “Half-man, Half-amazing” is no longer the player who can leap tall Europeans in a single bound.
Carter is now a bearded veteran still capable of giving opponents buckets but primarily from the outside as opposed to over the top. VC is by and large a three-point shooter for the Mavs. He takes 45.9 percent of his total shots from behind the arc, connecting at a rate of 40 percent.
Carter has been a model citizen in Dallas, and — given his incoming resume — could have easily been a distraction after being assigned a bench role. He’s only started 43 of the 223 games he’s played in Dallas (0 this season) and averages just 25.1 minutes per game since 2011-12. But he has been OK with it. In an article on Mavs.com Carter talked about his place on the roster:
“It’s a different role, it’s a different mentality,” Carter said of coming off the bench. “As you’re growing up, people in the world in general put so much into being the starter. I think everyone grows up saying ‘I want to be a starter for my team’ instead of being a finisher, being a closer. When you break it down to them they’re like ‘ah, yeah, that makes sense.’ You could be a guy who starts and really doesn’t play anymore the rest of the game.”
That maturity in that statement speaks volumes and alludes to a man totally comfortable with himself. How many guys who have had the same level of popularity and success as Carter could be so chill? He’s No. 25 on the NBA’s all-time points list and No. 7 on three-pointers made, yet seems to have no ego about it at all. He once had his own pop culture/basketball phrase that has since been recycled at fraction of the popularity.
Vinsanity > Linsanity in a landslide.
Marion by and large has always been a bit of an overachiever. Despite his bizarre jump-shot, he remains a productive player on both ends of the floor and staple in the Dallas starting lineup. He’s become a glue guy, averaging 10.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game on 48 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three this season.
Once described as the human pogo stick, or The Matrix, Marion used to glide through the air and was one of the best finishers in the league. His celebrity never really reached the inferno temperatures of Carter’s, but that didn’t limit his effectiveness. During a seven year stretch between 2001-08, Marion averaged 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Considering he’s a true small forward, the fact that he came close to averaging the benchmark goal for elite bigs of “20 and 10” for that long is remarkable.
He transformed himself from an energy guy with freakish athletic ability to a multi-year all-star but has been a role player for a little while now. He’s great in the locker room and rounds out the Dallas starting lineup perfectly. He makes things easy because the Mavs rarely actually run plays for him. Marion just finds a way to get things done taking what the defense gives him. Whether that’s allowing him to set his feet for the jumper, or cleaning up missed shots and bodying opponents at the rim, Marion does it all unassumingly.
Both players are in the final years of their deal with the Mavericks and could be set out to pasture by owner Mark Cuban this summer. How the Mavs fare in the playoffs and how much these two actually contribute will be the determining factors if they are welcomed back next season (at reduced rates). Dallas is trying to continue an upward progression in talent acquisition and it’s unclear if all parties will be able to come to an agreement that suits everyone’s financial needs.
But Carter and Marion have been loyal to the game and to their level of skill at each step along the way. VC jokingly calls himself “Old-Man Occasionally Amazing” and Marion is more like “The Matrix Reloaded.” They have no delusions about themselves but still know how to play with what’s left in their 30-plus year old bodies.
If all players could age with the grace and humility of these two, the NBA would be a better place than it already is.
What do you think?
Follow Warren on Twitter at @ShawSportsNBA.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.