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Vince Carter brings a lot of things to the Phoenix Suns. 12 years of NBA experience. Countless awards, All-Star appearances and All-NBA honors. He's just shy of 20,000 points in his career and feels like he can still create plenty of scoring opportunities for himself and for Steve Nash. In other words, Vince Carter brings a type of confidence and bravado that Amare Stoudemire had in Phoenix. Vince is just a tad bit better at expressing his point and winning the battle of the press conference.
Asked about going from a championship-contending team in Orlando the the .500 Suns, who are struggling to stay in playoff contention, Vince wasn't worried. Vince has the answers and the answer is Vince.
"Yes, we left a championship-caliber team, but when we added the right pieces to Orlando that made that team a championship-caliber team. Now, adding the right pieces here can do the same thing."
But according to Vince, the key isn't Vince's numbers. The key is having a winning mentality and believing, something it sounds like he feels is missing from the Suns up to this point.
"It's all about winning. It's really not about my numbers. It's not really about what the other guys are doing, it's about getting (wins) and, like I said, championships.
"It's about believing, believing you can. That's one thing about our team, and teams that I've played on in the past -- when we believed, it got better. My first year in New Jersey, we were below .500 when I got there, but we made the playoffs. We weren't good enough to win a championship, but it was about us believing it can happen. We come from a team where we believed that good things could happen to our team and we want to bring that to the table for this team."
Clearly, the Suns' problem on the defensive end and in the rebounding battle was they didn't believe enough. Problem solved now, thanks to Vince Carter.
On the court, Vince says he can score the ball and also take some of the pressure off Steve Nash by creating for others, including Nash. That might sound a lot like what we heard Hedo Turkoglu's role would be, but let's face it, Hedo Turkoglu certainly is no Vince Carter when it comes to facilitating an offense.
Carter wants to be the guy who sometimes has the 13 assists so Nash can have the 40 points. Again, it's not about Vince's own numbers, it's about doing whatever it takes to help the team win and Vince is going to fit in with the Suns.
"I used the word 'fitting in' before and I was scolded by coach. I just want to come in here and be myself," Carter said about fitting in.
Suns fans will recall that it took Jason Richardson most of his first season to feel like he understood his role and how to play with this team. Vince isn't concerned about adjusting and doesn't think it will take too long.
"I can't put a timetable on it because first off, we haven't had one practice. It's more so just trying to grasp the concepts."
But then again, Vince is a guy that goes above and beyond his own role, which could add a little more time to the process.
"For me, I always make it harder for myself because I try and learn the ins and outs of the offense at every position -- for my own knowledge. The challenge is to grasp the offense and understand what they're trying to get out of it and I think you can kind of navigate your way through it from there. And once you get the defensive concepts -- coming from a defensive team -- it can't get anymore difficult or harder than what I just left. I think I'll be OK on that aspect."
Most importantly, Vince wants you to know what's really important: "It's about us as a unit finding a way to win."
Press conference won.
Now the question remains if this confident alpha dog can fit in with Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Vince is confident that his years of friendship with Grant -- they are neighbors in Orlando and at one point talked about wanting to play together -- will help.
Many see Vince Carter as a guy with a short-term contract that was part of the deal that helped undo the long-term burden the Suns took on in Hedo Turkoglu. They see Vince as a possible chip to be used in another trade or as an expiring contract to help the Suns clear salary cap space to acquire other assets.
Vince doesn't see it that way. Vince is here to help the Suns find a winning mentality and make sure the Suns believe they can win a championship. Winning is all that matters to Vince.
Mickael Pietrus is also a guy who believes in having a good attitude and thinks the key to his being a good defensive player is his mentality.
"I think it's a matter if you're a winner. So I think that's what I'm going to bring to the team at the end of the fourth quarter, but still enjoy myself and have a great smile on my face on the floor," Pietrus said.
He's not worried about his minutes or if he starts the game, but he certainly hopes he can be the guy on the floor in the fourth quarter hitting big shots ... with a smile on his face and love in his heart.
"I'm not into any competition. I will love my teammates, so we're going to do the best thing for the franchise."
Pietrus, who missed some time recently due to a sore knee, said he's fine and will be ready to play on Thursday.
"My knee is good, no problem now."
Marcin Gortat seems like a pretty funny guy. He comes across as personable and kind of talkative. In that respect, he is the polar opposite of the guy with whom he's going to battle for playing time at the center position. But just because Marcin is friendly, doesn't mean he's not hungry to win his way into Alvin Gentry's rotation and onto the court.
"Of course, it is competition," Gortat said about the battle with Robin Lopez for the starting center position.
"He's big, skilled. I know there's a second Lopez (Robin's brother, Brook) who's really good. Robin, he has a big opportunity right now. He's a starting big man and he's still got a lot to learn, just like me. But I'm 100 percent sure there's a bigger chance I'm going to play here than I'm going to play in Orlando."
That word "opportunity" means a lot for Gortat. He's played behind the best young big man in the game, Dwight Howard, for the past four years and while the practice sessions have been grueling lessons, Marcin is itching to get on the court in more games. He can't help but look at the 22-year-old Robin Lopez and think that the starting job is there for the taking.
"Being in Orlando and sitting on the bench and playing five or six minutes a game wasn't easy. I'm 26 years old right now and after the game you're coming back home and watching other young guys playing in different teams," Gortat said about his time with the Magic.
"Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert and other guys and you just realize you are 26 years old and you're entering your best years in your NBA career and all of a sudden you're sitting on the bench and you play five, six minutes a game. You've got to be frustrated. And all of a sudden you've got this opportunity -- you're going to the team with a great point guard, with a perfect style and what else you need? I'm 100 percent sure I'll be good."
The Polish big man, who knows Goran Dragic from their days playing in Europe, is focused on two things: playing defense and rebounding the ball, and running the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash. He understands that the Suns need him to be a physical, inside defensive presence, but he's also looking forward to being rewarded by Nash for running the floor and playing hard.
"I'm 100 percent sure coach (Gentry) wants me to play pick-and-roll with Steve and I'm looking forward to that."
In addition to scoring on the pick-and-roll and on offensive rebounds, Marcin said he's confident in his 15- to 17-foot jump shot and won't hesitate to shoot the ball if he's open. He was also advised by Magic backup point guard Jason Williams that if he runs the floor hard every time, Nash will find him.
While Gortat speaks enough Serbian to talk with Dragic and he's sure they will be friends on the team, the focus in his comments is about playing with Steve Nash and that means being the Suns' starting center. It should be fun watching Gortat and Lopez battle for that spot. It can't help but make both of them better and while Marcin is used to Dwight's elbows in practice, he's not experienced Robin's ferocity, either.
"I'm excited. I'm 100 percent sure I can make a difference in this team. I can help this team," Gortat said about the Suns, who he considers the team that helped turn his career in a positive direction.
He recalled playing in Phoenix in December 2008 when he had to come into the game after Dwight Howard left in the fourth quarter with an injury. Gortat played very well (eight points, six rebounds, 13 minutes) in that game and called it a "turning point." Prior to that, his role wasn't well defined and his playing time was spotty, but from that point forward he was established in the Magic rotation as the backup to Howard.
Then a rookie, Robin Lopez started that game for the Suns in place of Shaquille O'Neal and had four points and one rebound in 20 minutes. I am sure Gortat remembers that, as well.
The Phoenix Suns have not been a stable organization when it comes to the roster. Three times in the past four seasons now they have made big trades during the season and of course last summer saw a massive roster overhaul when Amare Stoudemire left along with Louis Amundson and Leandro Barbosa. Of the current players, only Steve Nash and Grant Hill have been on the team more than three years.
Nash has often talked about the need for chemistry, cohesion and continuity and frequently cited this summer's roster turnover as one reason why the team was taking time to gel. With today's trade, Nash will once again be faced with learning to play with a new teammate who needs the ball in his hands. In this case, that means Vince Carter, who doesn't have a reputation as a guy who's fit in well at any point in his 12-year NBA career.
For Alvin Gentry, this trade means learning how to best use three new players and figuring how how to balance the minutes among his deep roster. Despite this concerns, both Nash and Grant Hill have expressed initial support of the trade.
Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said this about his team's veterans reactions to the news:
"We've discussed this with them, both Steve and Grant. They embrace it and I think they are excited about it. It's hard for them because they are seeing their friends leave town, but on the other hand, they are understanding of how this is going to make us a better team ... What they've communicated with us is that they are very much in support of this."
Alvin Gentry also was supportive of his new players in an interview with Yahoo! Sports.
"Vince is one of the most talented guys in the NBA," Gentry said. "We got to get him back playing to that level. We hate to lose J-Rich, but to get a player of [Carter's] caliber we had to give something.
[...]"Gortat gives us size and protects us defensively," Gentry said. "We got to get better defensively to get into the playoffs. We made a trade based on improvement. Grant was wearing down defensively. Pietrus can help."
[...]"It wasn't a good fit," Gentry said. "I thought it would be a better fit. It didn't work out. That was a disappointment."
Twenty games into the season, it was determined that Hedo Turkoglu wasn't a good fit after all the positive things said about his role on the Suns when the trade was made. That makes is difficult to take the optimism about Carter too seriously now.
There are very few players in the NBA who, over the course of their career, have elicited as much passion as Vince Carter. As a young player, Carter earned the nickname "Half Man, Half Amazing" for his incredible high-flying dunks, which are the stuff of YouTube legend.
The 33-year-old Carter is a 12-year NBA veteran who's been in eight All-Star games (seven times as a starter), won Rookie of the Year and has numerous other awards, including an Olympic Gold Medal. Carter is just 169 points shy of 20,000 on his career and is still averaging 15 points per game on 47 percent shooting in 30 minutes with the Magic this season.
Carter is also a guy who is frequently considered by most NBA observers to be a selfish player more interested in his own stats and a guy who's never been much of a leader. He's known for frequent injuries, taking bad shots at key moments, poor defense and questionable effort as he's advanced into his 30s. But Suns GM Lance Blanks thinks Carter has a lot to offer the Suns.
"Vince has been as good a scorer as anyone in the NBA in his time. I think there's more left than some others may (think)," Blanks said. He feels that Carter's up and down year this season with Orlando is related to some "nicks and bruises."
"We're excited about him. I think he's probably undervalued from a perception standpoint. We believe that he has a lot more left than one might think with the naked eye because of his ability to shot the ball and play with a point guard like Steve Nash. I think we'll see this guy in a much different light than you might have seen Vince over the first 20-plus games of the season."
For his part, Carter was described by the Suns as "wildly enthusiastic" about being traded to Phoenix. He knows Grant Hill from their time together as neighbors in Orlando and is said to be excited to play with Steve Nash.
Vince Carter highlight reel from the 2009-10 season
Marcin Gortat was quite clearly the key to this trade for the Suns. Blanks and Suns President Lon Babby frequently talked about the need to add size, rebounding and defense to the team and they are excited about Gortat's toughness. They feel Marcin can improve the Suns defensively while also helping on the offensive end by getting easy buckets playing pick-and-roll, finishing in the lane and running the floor.
Gortat, 26, has played as a backup to Dwight Howard for the past four years in Orlando and was openly disappointed when the Magic matched an offer sheet from Dallas that would have given the restricted free agent the chance to have a bigger role.
"He is ecstatic to be here," Blanks said about Gortat's reaction to the trade news.
"Another thing, this takes an enormous amount of pressure off Lopez. I don't think people realize how much pressure it is being the only guy on the floor his size and the load he might have to carry, especially with Amare being gone. Now he's got another big body out there that can take up some of the load from a rebounding standpoint and a defensive standpoint and also a guy that we can throw the ball to down low," Blanks said.
Gortat is averaging a career-high 4.0 points and a career-high 4.7 rebounds in just 15.9 minutes playing behind Howard this season. He shoots 54 percent from the field and 67 percent from the free throw line.
Lance Blanks had a chance to see Pietrus up close during the 2008-09 playoffs when Mickael helped lift the Orlando Magic over the Cleveland Cavaliers, with whom Blanks was working at the time as an assistant GM. Pietrus made a name for himself in that series with his tough defense on LeBron James and his ability to knock down big shots.
"I can't emphasize enough ... his (Pietrus) level of grit and toughness he's going to bring will be very much welcome here in our organization," Blanks said.
Pietrus is currently sidelined with a knee sprain that the team doesn't feel will be a long term issue. All players involved in the trade will undergo physicals conducted by their new teams.
Pietrus is a 6-6, 215-pound swingman who can play either the shooting guard or small forward positions. His nickname, "Air France," reflects his athletic ability, which was often on display when he played in Golden State and frequently finished fast break plays with big dunks.
He is averaging 6.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 20 minutes of play this season. Mickael is also shooting a career-high 39.1 percent from three-point range.
When can they play?
Because of the timing of those medical exams, Babby doesn't expect any of the new players to be available for Sunday's game in Oklahoma or Monday's game in San Antonio. That would make Thursday's game at home against Miami as the target for their debut.
In trading away Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark, the Suns moved two guys that were part of the log jam the Suns have at the wing positions. In getting back Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mikael Pietrus, they didn't make the problem of finding minutes for everyone any easier.
With a healthy Robin Lopez, the Suns were trying to play ten or even eleven guys, which Suns Coach Alvin Gentry has admitted recently just wasn't working. "To be honest with you guys, somewhere along the line we're going to have to shorten the rotation enough so guys are out there where they're playing," he said.
"What we're doing right now, I don't think we're getting guys enough extended minutes or enough time out there to get into any kind of rhythm. That might something we look at and change a little bit in the next couple of days."
Bringing in three guys who need minutes to replace two guys who were playing regularly just makes that situation more challenging for Gentry. Suns General Manager Lance Blanks admitted as much and put the onus on Gentry to sort it out.
"The toughest job in the organization has to be Alvin (Gentry). I think it could be just as challenging with finding minutes for (these) guys in the right mix," Blanks said.
"Our job is to bring in talent and bring in the best chemistry and in my estimation, Alvin's as good as anyone in managing people. I think this job will require even more of that with the guys that we're bringing in. There's no secret that we have eight to ten, maybe eleven guys who are deserving of minutes."
Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby expressed a similar sentiment, "(Gentry) will figure out how to make it work."
Neither Babby or Blanks would say if Marcin Gortat would move immediately into the starting lineup in place of Robin Lopez or if they envisioned Lopez and Gortat playing together. Blanks said Gentry would now have the option to use a big lineup against teams like the Lakers if it made sense.
The Suns now have four centers on the roster: Gortat and Lopez, along with Earl Barron and Garret Siler. They will likely continue to start Channing Frye at power forward, with Hakim Warrick backing him up.
At small forward, Grant Hill will still start and we can assume Vince Carter will start at shooting guard. Jared Dudley, Mickael Pietrus and Josh Childress can all play either wing position, leaving five guys in two spots, which is something Gentry specifically was concerned about.
Guard Goran Dragic also benefits from playing some time off the ball, especially when he can get a few minutes of floor time with Steve Nash prior to taking over the point guard responsibilities. In the near term, the Suns could very well let Siler go and pick up a third point guard, either bringing back Matt Janning or finding another free agent or D-league player.
Longer term, the Suns will certainly have to consider moving Vince Carter, who's only guaranteed $4 million of his $18 million contract for next season. If there's an NBA lockout as many anticipate, that $4 million might not even get paid. Pietrus, who's only owed $5.3 million this season and has a player option for the same amount next year, could also be an attractive asset in any future trades.
What the Suns need more than any specific position is a young player that has the potential to be a franchise star. Those are hard to come by, but the Suns at least feel like they have a lot of flexibility and attractive assets moving forward.
Details about this deal are firming up now with ESPN reporting that the Phoenix Suns are very close to finalizing a trade with the Orlando Magic that would send Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to the Magic in return for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a 2011 first round draft pick and cash.
The deal would radically remake the Suns roster in the middle of the season for the third time in four seasons. For a team that revolves around Steve Nash, who values stability and consistency in his relationships on and off the court, it is hard to have a positive reaction to the move.
The portion that makes sense for the Suns is swapping Hedo Turkoglu for Marcin Gortat, but it says a lot about the thought process and decision-making that they would be desperate enough to move Hedo that they are willing to take on Vince Carter in place of Jason Richardson. It's both an admission of mistake on the initial Hedo decision and a potentially devastating blow to the rest of this season.
Jason Richardson is a perfect fit at the two guard next to Steve Nash -- at least on the offensive end of the floor -- but it took a full season to get there. Replacing him with Vince Carter now will be a huge setback to the flow of the offense and provide no upgrade defensively.
Mickael Pietrus is a nice player. He fills the role of defensively-minded two guard who can shoot the three ball and his contract isn't bad. Pietrus is under contract for this season at $5.3 million with a player option for next year at the same amount. The problem here is that Pietrus adds to the log-jam on the Suns wings. Replacing two wing players with two wing players doesn't solve anything unless Gentry elects to not play Carter, which would be a hard pill to swallow since he's making $17.5 million.
The prize in the deal, of course, is Marcin Gortat. Gortat gives the Suns much-needed size, toughness and depth at the center position. The front line trio of Gortat, Lopez and Frye is at least respectable, if not incredible, but it only works when matched with a smooth-flowing back court that Nash and Richardson could provide.
Nash and Carter once again gives the Suns a player (Carter) who (like Hedo) is most effective with the ball in his hands and we've already seen that Nash isn't willing to relinquish that control. If Carter didn't fit with Jameer Nelson, he's not going to fit with Steve Nash.
The real question now, assuming this deal happens as reported, is what, if anything, this means for Nash and possibility of moving him. With the team hovering around .500 and seeing yet another teammate get moved, you can easily envision a frustrated Steve asking to be dealt. Certainly a late first round pick and some cash isn't going to placate Nash.
There are some who've called for the Phoenix Suns to admit their window has closed and to begin the rebuilding process immediately. This could very well be the first step. What to watch for next is the reaction from Nash and any signs that the Suns might want to flip Carter's expiring contract for some other better fitting pieces.
The NBA trade rumors are starting to swirl like snow in December and not even the desert heat can keep the Phoenix Suns out of the chatter. In this case, reports are flying that the Orlando Magic are looking to shake up their under-performing, overpaid roster by moving overpaid and under-performing forward Rashard Lewis. Lewis would be going to the Washington Wizards for Gilbert Arenas, who has another one of the league's worst contracts. Now it seems the Suns have involved themselves, as well, with the discussions reportedly centering on Hedo Turkoglu returning to Orlando where he had the best years of his career.
Evan Dunlap from SB Nation's Orlando Magic blog first reported a potential Arenas to the Magic trade a few weeks ago and updated his report last night. Multiple sources are now reporting similar deals, with the added twist that Dwight Howard is pushing the Magic to shake things up. Howard will be a free agent at the end of the next season and keeping him happy is of course a priority in Orlando.
Specifics on what the Suns would get back in the deal are sketchy at best, but it would seem that Phoenix is trying to secure backup center Marcin Gortat in the deal for Turkoglu. Turkoglu hasn't been a good fit in Phoenix, in large part for reasons that were predictable.
Turkoglu's stock has fallen inside the Suns organization, with questions arising about his fit on the team. He wasn't able to adapt to playing the power forward position, which took him out of the starting lineup and between Steve Nash's propensity to dominate the ball and Turkoglu's freelancing plays with the second unit, he's not been able to find a role. There is also a perception that he doesn't play with enough consistent passion or energy, although at times he's been very impressive on the defensive end, but mostly only late in games.
Following the dollars
Financially there are many questions about how this might all play out for the teams involved.
It would be difficult for the Magic, who already have the league's highest payroll ($94 million), to swap the $62 million owed Arenas for the $31-43 million guaranteed Lewis through the 2012-13 season without making other cost-saving moves.
It may be that the only way they would take on Turkoglu's remaining $28.8 million guaranteed salary (not including this season) in place of the $21.8 million owed Gortat would be to insist on the Suns swapping Jason Richardson for Vince Carter.
Both Carter and Richardson are on expiring contracts, but Vince is owed about 7.1 million more. That means a deal that sends Gortat and Carter to Phoenix for Richardson and Turkoglu would be almost even deal financially.
More likely, the Magic would want to try and get the Suns to take on the $14.2 million owed Chris Duhon, but the Suns could balk at that for a backup point guard. A Gortat and Duhon for Turkoglu deal is about a salary wash this season, but gives the Suns about $8 million more in long term contract obligations that would help offset some of additional Arenas contract for the Magic.
Obviously, these deals are complicated, with multiple parties and players involved and all reports, rumors and speculation at this point are very much subject to change.
What's seems to be clear is the Suns' understanding that they put together an unbalanced roster with the moves Robert Sarver made this summer. We've heard Gentry say as much recently with statements about hard it is to play five guys at two positions. His frustration has led to a variety of rotation tinkering.
Messing with chemistry
At this point, losing Turkoglu probably wouldn't upset too many people in the locker room, as he's not been here that long. Swapping Richardson for Carter, however, could create a potential chemistry crisis that might be the final straw for Steve Nash, who's repeatedly expressed his frustration at the lack of stability on the team over the past several years. For that reason alone, it might be worth it for the Suns to swallow Duhon's contract for the chance to replace Turkoglu with Gortat.
The combination of Gortat and Lopez would suddenly give the Suns much-needed depth at the center position and more versatility in how the team matches up against some of the bigger teams in the West. Gortat is signed through 2013-14 season and has the combination of mobility and size that the Suns covet in their bigs.
Gortat has improved his mid-range game this season and is a guy who has shown the ability to catch and finish on the pick-and-roll, although he doesn't get many touches in the Magic system. Having Gortat on the roster would also take some of the pressure off the 22-year-old Lopez to carry all of the defensive and big man responsibilities alone.
Moving Turkoglu opens up space in the rotation for Josh Childress to play his natural small forward position and could even increase opportunities for Earl Clark, who continues to show signs of improvement.
However, if the Suns give up on Turkoglu too soon they could regret the loss of his clutch shooting and playmaking ability down the road when and if Grant Hill (38) and Steve Nash (36) aren't both able to play big minutes. Hill's contract expires at the end of this season and Nash has one year remaining. Hedo could be a long-term insurance policy for either guy if he and Goran Dragic are able to workout a good court chemistry.
[Note by Justin Burning, 12/18/10 11:59 AM MST ]
ESPN's Chris Broussard has tweeted the following:
Magic & Suns closing in on deal to send Hedo/jRich to Phx for Vince and Gortat. "90 pct" chance of it happening, sources say. Within 24 hrs
Last night, the trade rumors were flying about Gilbert Arenas being sent from the Washington Wizards to the Orlando Magic, possibly in return for back-up center Marcin Gortat or underperforming and overpaid forward Rashard Lewis. The rumors, reported and corroborated by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, CBS Sports' Ken Berger and Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, described there being a "strong possibility" of occuring. Well, this morning, the parameters of the trade may have changed a bit, with the Phoenix Suns reportedly getting involved.
In the newest rumors, the Suns would send ill-fitting forward Hedo Turkoglu back to the Magic. It is currently unclear what Phoenix would get in return, though Berger's sources say that Gortat is "100% involved" and would make sense for the Suns. One would hope the team is also considering Orlando's injured young forward Ryan Anderson, or perhaps Washington's JaVale McGee or even Andray Blatche -- but none of those players has surfaced in current reports.
Vince Carter has been named in the Arenas talks, however. He is due $17.3 million for this year, the last guaranteed year of his contract. Essentially expiring (he is guaranteed only $4 million next season), Carter could be a valuable chip for the Wizards, who have been long seeking to get out from under Arenas' burdensome deal.
The Phoenix Suns have underperformed this season and, at 12-13, coach Alvin Gentry has expressed his frustration with the roster on a number of occasions. The team appears to be looking to unload one of the many wing players they secured after losing Amare Stoudemire to the Knicks. Jettisoning the four years and $44 million left on Turkoglu's contract would gain the Suns some much-needed flexibility to acquire the size it desperately needs.
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