Vince Carter got old.
This isn't a particularly complicated reality. The explosive wing leaper who took the NBA by storm a decade ago has entered that stage of his career where we all talk far more about his contract than his game.
As a member of the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns in 2010-2011, Carter, 34, put up career-lows in every important category: 28.1 minutes per game, 14.0 points per game, 12.2 shots per game, 2.4 free throws per game, 3.8 rebounds per game and 2.0 assists per game.
That's the bad news. The worse news? Carter is on the books for $18.9 million in the 2011-2012 season.
But, wait, there's good news! That final year of his contract is only partially guaranteed. Rather than pay the aging wing scorer who is clearly in decline and was never much of a winner anyway, the Suns can simply buy out of his contract and be done with him.
The Arizona Republic reports that's exactly what the team plans to do.
They won't trade Vince Carter's contract, opting instead to buy him out for $4 million in the coming days.This is about as obvious as offseason moves get. The Suns are coming to terms with the fact that the Steve Nash era is ending and it's time for a massive youth movement. That almost always requires a liquidation of big contracts, and Carter's is by far the biggest on their books. Trading his salary would likely require Phoenix to take back mismatched parts or long-term salary commitments that would wind up slowing down the rebuilding process. Better to just be done with him and move on.
What's in Carter's future?
Well, he's reached the "Shaquille O'Neal 30+ Vagabond" stage of his career where he will need to hope someone, hopefully a contender, takes a chance on him as a scorer off the bench.
Will he be able to command more than the veteran's minimum?
It's possible, but that could depend on what the new CBA looks like, as most of this year's contenders spent big to get there and won't be in the position to hand out additional contracts.
There's a spot in this league for Carter still, but it's certainly not at center stage. Retirement can't be too far down the road.