Orlando could be Magic for Carter

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Dwight Howard, the NBA's resident prankster, was half-joking when asked to best describe the state of Vince Carter's hops.

"He's now: 'Half-Man, Half-Retired,' " Superman intoned. "He's not the Toronto Raptors' Vince Carter who was dunking on seven-footers, but he's still one of the league's best players."

At this stage in his basketball evolution, Carter finds himself in the perfect location.

If he can somehow avoid the daily inconveniences associated with playing in one's hometown, the man once known as Vinsanity has a chance of winning a championship.

No longer does Carter have to pre-occupy himself in being the man or the drawing card.

While Raptors fans continue to hold a grudge against Carter, one that always will exist because of petty jealousy and naivete, Carter provided Toronto a much-needed shot in the arm at a time when the franchise was a league-wide joke.

In Orlando, Carter doesn't have to absorb the mantle of franchise player because of Howard's presence.

In Orlando, Carter doesn't have to put people in the seats with his high-wire act because the Magic franchise is among the best operated in the NBA, a club that will soon be moving into a spanking new state-of-the-art arena.

What Carter gives the Magic is a legitimate go-to player late in shot-clock situations and in crunch time late in games.

He doesn't have to impose his will by dunking on foes because his jump shot is so pure that Carter, if he's so inclined, can play until he's 40.

Carter, 32, will be given plenty of open looks because of Howard's post presence.

Carter still can get off his shot, but he now has a chance to fully expand his game because all the necessary pieces and circumstances are in place in central Florida.

Carter's defence and commitment always have been in question, but Stan Van Gundy and his well-respected staff will not allow Carter to cut any corners.

When Carter made his Magic debut in the team's pre-season opener in Dallas on Monday, he played close to 29 minutes.

Once he gets his legs underneath him and understands how to play off his teammates, Carter's overall abilities will be showcased.

Against the Mavs, Carter heaved three-pointers, attempting 12 and making only three as he led Orlando with 21 points. Carter never saw the floor in the fourth quarter.

At his height as a Raptor, fans saw how Carter was capable of handling the ball, finding the open man, attacking the rim and even locking up his man.

Magic fans aren't likely to see the daily highlight reel dunks, but they will like what they see -- in time.

There was a time when Carter was known for his dunking exploits, and no one is saying that he can't play above the rim, but now Carter has a chance to just play the game and be a piece on a championship-contending team.

Carter and the Magic visit the Air Canada Centre on Nov. 1, just days after Carter plays his former team in New Jersey.

And the survey says?

The eighth annual GM poll was released yesterday, a formal survey of the league's power brokers who aren't allowed to vote for their own clubs or team personnel.

The GMs think the Los Angeles Lakers will repeat as champs and that the Boston Celtics have the best chance to emerge from the Eastern Conference.

LeBron James is the overwhelming favourite to cop MVP honours, followed by Kobe Bryant and Howard.

San Antonio Spurs and Orlando were deemed to have made the most astute off-season moves and the Washington Wizards were ranked as the team most likely to make the biggest improvement this coming season.

Phil Jackson narrowly beat out Gregg Popovich as the game's top coach, while Dirk Nowitzki is hands down the top international player.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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