I'm not one to get caught up in external stories, so you'll pardon me for not wanting to write about the ramifications the Orlando Magic's playoff run, which starts tomorrow afternoon against the Charlotte Bobcats, could have on Vince Carter's overall career. I'm no good at that sort of thing. But some people are. Here are four stories about Carter's possible redemption that might interest you.
Lee Jenkins sets the scene in a three-page feature on Carter which appears in the April 19th issue of Sports Illustrated:
For the first time he has a dominant big man in the post, a deadeye shooter on the wing and a picture of the Larry O'Brien Trophy in his locker. For the first time he won more than 50 games in the regular season. "In the next couple of months," says Magic forward Matt Barnes, "people will find out who he really is." Carter has long been defined by extraordinary plays made under modest pressure. But the postseason is defined by routine plays made under suffocating pressure. Carter does not have to amaze anymore. He just has to execute: dump down to [Dwight] Howard, kick out to forward Rashard Lewis, bury the open jumper. Then he might do something else that no one has ever seen before.
Jenkins' work features interviews with Carter, some of his Magic teammates, and former coach Lawrence Frank, who provides a quote suitable for framing:
"He does things with a ball that astronauts do in space."
Next, from Tim Povtak, who's come under some heavy criticism lately because he didn't give LeBron James his first-place MVP vote, justifying that decision by arguing that James' choice to rest the final few games of the regular season was unfair to fans and the league. But don't let that puzzling view diminish Povtak's work with Carter here:
Carter, 33, never has been more ready to play basketball, knowing through the next eight weeks he can redefine his career, change the perception he has fought the last 12 years, that he is nothing more than a great individual player who can dominate the highlight tapes.
He wants to be known as a champion. And he finally has the chance to do it.
Shaun Powell of NBA.com has also touched on this subject, listing Carter as well as backcourt-mate Jameer Nelson among the players whose reputations will be tied to this postseason.
John Hollinger of ESPN Insider agrees, writing, "Carter will become a magnet for blame if the Magic fail to repeat as conference champions." But there's an upshot to this potential outcome:
"Basically, Carter has everything to gain and nothing to lose here. If the Magic disappoint, it just cements the already existing view of Carter as a guy who shrinks from big moments. But if they don't, it will be cause for a wholesale re-evaluation."
But those stories just came out in the last day or two; the idea that a postseason run could alter our expectations has been around for a while. In just the first week of the season, M. Haubs of The Painted Area wrote extensively on that subject, which--as we can see now--has really come to the fore, and is one of the big narratives driving the Magic's postseason.