Mavs promote Carter for Sixth Man of Year

DALLAS -- The T-shirts passed out to the 15,000 fans Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center will promote Vince Carter for the Sixth Man of the Year honor.

Carter is certainly deserving of consideration, but he probably ranks behind the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, Bulls’ Taj Gibson and Suns’ Markieff Morris among worthy candidates.

It’s still appropriate for the Mavs to have “Vince Carter Night,” as much to recognize his contributions over the last three seasons as to promote the 37-year-old for an award.

Carter was considered a former superstar in the twilight of his career, perceived by some as selfish, when the Mavs signed him to a three-year, $9.3 million deal after the lockout was lifted. With the last two years of the deal only partially guaranteed, many didn’t expect Carter to last more than one season in Dallas.

It’s now looks likely that Carter will get a second contract from the Mavs.

Carter, who is averaging 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 24.4 minutes per game this season, has made it no secret that he hopes to re-sign with the Mavs this summer.

“The feeling is absolutely mutual,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said, reiterating an opinion voiced by owner Mark Cuban. “When you have that kind of veteran leadership, we’re a better team. It’s great for the younger guys. Those are the kind of guys that you want in that locker room carrying the baton and eventually passing it on.”

The contract terms would need to be negotiated, but it’s reasonable to believe that it’d be a one- or two-year deal in the same financial neighborhood of Carter’s current contract. At a little more than $3 million per season, Carter has been a great value signing for the Mavs.

“We knew he was a good player,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “There was never any doubt about that. He was mostly a starter for us that first year. Then when [Jason] Terry left, he wanted to take over that role. For these two years, he’s been a really important part of our attack, important part of our personality of our team. He’s a terrific guy and he’s played really well for us.”

The question is how much longer Carter, who is 42 points shy of passing Elgin Baylor for 26th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, can continue to be productive. He will join Michael Jordan, Grant Hill, Reggie Miller and Dominique Wilkins as the only wing players to ever average at least 12 points per game in a season at age 37 or older.

Carter and the Mavs are confident that the eight-time All-Star still has at least a quality season or two left in the tank.

“Vince is one of those rare guys that just has gotten better with time,” Nelson said. “He was the human highlight film coming out. Now he’s making plays, he’s passing, he’s a leader on the floor. Obviously the 3 ball has just really taken his game to a different level.

“Most veteran guys, if they’re going to have longevity in the league, they can’t be one-dimensional. After the first couple of years, you figure it out. ... Those elements are what make for Hall of Fame type runs. I think Vince is definitely in that class.”