Jason Kidd and 6-foot-6 eight-time All-Star Vince Carter are back together, although a bit older, maybe even slower, and both definitely don't jump as high as they once did. But everyone knows how cunning the stout, 6-foot-4 Kidd is, and his tremendous postseason run at both ends of the court put an end to any notion that he was too old or slow to complete the job.
As for Carter, a human highlight reel for the duration of his career, he said he is learning how to play the game effectively from a somewhat lower vantage point.
"Just smarter," Carter said of the evolution of his game. "I’ve taken pride in trying to learn the game of basketball throughout the years. I’ve come from a great program [North Carolina] where I was taught the game anyway, so for me it’s just continue to find ways to be effective. I’m not really into trying to jump over people anymore."
Dallas boasted a terrific backcourt last season with players of varying skills and expertise. Gone is the mad-dog defender DeShawn Stevenson, who developed quite a lethal 3-pointer, as well. Gone is J.J. Barea, who frustrated defenses with his quick attacks to the basket and became as equally proficient passing it out or dumping it off as he did finishing off drives himself.
Carter, a superior offensive threat, effectively replaces Stevenson, with Delonte West taking over Barea's job as Kidd's backup.
Let's break down the two guard positions:
Point guard: If Stevenson was thought to be a bit on the extreme side, how best to describe West? Well, the Mavs hope the slender 6-foot-3 veteran can handle the basketball, hit a few shots and defend. His priority is to allow Kidd the rest he'll need during a 66-game schedule that will be played in a whirlwind 123 days. In his seven seasons, West, who recently described himself as a "poor man's Jason Kidd," hasn't exactly been a durable workhorse over his career, having only once played as many as 71 games in a season and six times having played 69 games or fewer. The goal is to keep Kidd's minutes around 30 or fewer per game, and there might be times throughout 20 back-to-backs and one back-to-back-to-back that Kidd might get a night off.
"With Delonte, he’s a veteran guy that can knock down a shot, he can defend anybody. He knows how to play, he’s been in the game a while now," Kidd said. "So we all trust him and understand he plays well with the ball or without the ball."
If West isn't in the lineup on the majority of nights, it will put tremendous pressure on Rodrigue Beaubois to make massive strides at point guard. Beaubois remains a far more confident player at shooting guard and it could be too much to ask him to take on large chunks of time at the point. Second-year combo guard Dominique Jones could also see time at point.
Shooting guard: "Vinsanity" takes over at 2-guard -- at least he would seem the obvious candidate with Jason Terry entrenched as the sixth man. The Mavs have long searched for a big, capable scorer at the 2. Last season with Stevenson, they certainly got bigger and more tenacious on the defensive end, but Stevenson certainly wasn't an explosive, create-his-own-shot type of player. With Carter, the Mavs might have the size and offense they've always craved, but they might run into defensive matchup issues. Dallas likes to use Kidd on shooting guards because, at 38, he just can't keep up with many of the young point guards in the league, while the 2-guard takes the opposing point. Carter, at his size and with knee issues, is not a candidate to slide over on the point guard. Terry, obviously, allows that flip and so, too, would either Beaubois or Jones. Carter's presence should allow Terry to dip his minutes some, but crunch time will be the most interesting time to see how coach Rick Carlisle plays things.
Terry loves late-game pressure and has all kinds of skins on the wall, and he won't want to lose that responsibility to Carter or anyone else.