A few days after the Orlando Magic acquired Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson from the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, and Courtney Lee, I contacted Dave D'Alessandro to discuss the trade. Dave, who covers the Nets for The Star-Ledger, is regarded as one of the best local beat writers in the business. He was kind enough to answer some questions of mine via email.
Third Quarter Collapse: The two main concerns in Orlando about the trade both pertain to Vince Carter. In your estimation, can he competently fill the role Hedo Turkoglu had for the Magic as a secondary offensive facilitator/primary perimeter scoring threat? And is there any chance he'll quit on the Magic the way he did on the Raptors a few years ago? (I think this point is vastly overstated, largely because no one from the Nets organization will say anything negative about him).
Dave D'Alessandro: Last thing first: Whether you think he "quit" on the Raptors is irrelevant, because a new team and challenge is likely to invigorate even the most melancholic of players--and Vince doesn't hide the fact that he was fed up in Toronto. Can happen to anybody, when the coach benches you in fourth quarters, as Sam Mitchell did throughout Nov/Dec of 2004. And he's long since rebuilt his image as a professional of the highest order. As for part A: He won't play like Hedo, because he's not really like Hedo, other than the fact that they both are adept at screen/roll so they can run the mismatch (PG) into the post. But he's never had the opportunity that Hedo has had -- specifically with regard to playing alongside quality bigs. Think about it: Until Brook Lopez came along last year, the best big man Vince ever got to play with was a 34-year-old Antonio Davis. Being teamed with Dwight will not only give him a new lease on life, it will probably extend his career. Both have the skills to run the point, but Hedo is not in Carter's class as a scorer.
After the jump, Dave's thoughts on the Magic's prior efforts to acquire Carter, the Eastern Conference arms race, Ryan Anderson's potential, and more.
3QC: Otis Smith has not made a secret of his admiration of Carter. What, if anything, can you tell us about prior negotiations between the Nets and Magic regarding Carter? And what held those up?
D'Alessandro: Actually, I'd say Otis's admiration of Carter a very well-kept secret, because tagging him as "fool's gold" wasn't exactly a compliment. He uttered that famous phrase in Feb. of '07, when the Nets and Magic were discussing a deal sending Carter to Orlando. The Nets weren't sure they wanted to commit to VC long-term -- he was to be a free agent that summer -- so they thought they'd try to find a team that would bundle some useful young pieces. When they summoned the chutzpah to ask for Hedo, Darko and J.J., Smith unwisely scoffed publicly, "I wouldn't give up a 21-year-old big man for a 30-year-old guard. I don't think I'd give up on Darko that fast. I don't know that I'd give up on J.J. (Redick) that fast, or give up on Turk (Hedo Turkoglu). I'm not going to take a step back and fall for what I call fool's gold. It shines and it glitters, but it just doesn't stick or pass the test." In an admiring way, I guess.
3QC: Based on the timing of the deal, some pundits have speculated that the Magic only did it as a response to the Cleveland Cavaliers' acquiring Shaquille O'Neal. As I understand it, negotiations for Carter began before the Shaq trade, so it would seem as though it was a proactive, not reactive, move. Then again, based on Smith's comments about Courtney Lee being a sticking point in the trade, the truth could be that the O'Neal trade convinced Smith to take the plunge with Carter. Which assessment is most accurate?
D'Alessandro: Not sure if it matters, Ben. Even if you're a defending conference champ, if you're not moving forward and upgrading your roster wherever you can -- and that involves paying the price of doing business -- you're falling behind. How comfortable can any team be in the East, where five different teams have reached the show in five years? Even the Lakers know this, which is why Artest replaces Ariza and they go into every summer thinking not about back-to-backs, but Dynasty. And Demoral.
3QC: What are your thoughts on Ryan Anderson, in general? Does he have a bright future in this league?
D'Alessandro: Ryan: Great kid, quick study, well-bred, slight sense of entitlement, bright future, and his 3-point percentage should soar being the second pass out of those Dwight doubles in the post. Think a tougher, more determined, more versatile Pat Garrity, just not quite as pure. Remember, though, he's only 21. Once he learns team defense, and improves his lateral quickness, you'll have a player.
3QC: Finally, is there anything else we should know about either player? Certain good and bad habits? Anything we might be surprised to learn?
D'Alessandro: Kind of hard to summarize the 10 (mostly illustrious) seasons of Carter's career, other than to note that he has -- with very few slips -- brought honor and class and unmatched pyrotechnics to the league that values all three. OK, maybe you don't know this: Of all the superstars you might encounter in this ego-driven business, you might not meet another guy who is more accessible, approachable, affable, and agreeable. Some say that part of his personality lacks the competitiveness or edge he needs to be one of the greats. To which I say: I don't care. To be great in this league, you have to have two things: Consistency, and the ability to do it late. I'd put Vince in the "pretty damn good" category, and a likely Hall of Famer for helping save the league in the post-Jordan age. But I also admire him for not chasing an image, or trying to live up to the expectations, or seeing himself only through the eyes of others. He's very comfortable in his own skin, and for someone of his accomplishments, that's the best measure of the man.
Thanks once again to Dave for his time and consideration in answering our questions. Check out his Nets coverage for The Star-Ledger here.