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hink way back -- say, four days ago -- and think about what a colossal underachiever Vince Carter was. A perennial disappointment, Carter was killing the Magic with his jumper-settling ways, and making them long for the halcyon days of Hedo Turkoglu
My, how things have changed. Carter ground out a solid 20-point effort Sunday in the Magic's nationally televised win in Boston, and then blew up the next night for a retro-looking 48-point performance in a win over New Orleans. In four February games, he's averaging 26.5 points on 52.8 percent shooting. Suddenly, he seems like the key to the Magic's hopes of making another run to the NBA Finals.
At the very least, he's played his way out of an infamous group -- the league's top disappointments in 2009-10. Had I made this list a week ago, Carter would have been the headliner. Now, he gets the headline for a very different reason. He's been so spectacular the past week that it overrides the four months of subpar play that preceded it.
Carter isn't alone on that list. The Philadelphia 76ers, for instance, may very well go down as one of the league's top disappointments when all is said and done. But their five-game winning streak, combined with the renewed vigor of Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert in the frontcourt, gives them a temporary reprieve from inclusion in this motley crew.
Alas, others have not been so fortunate. In fact, at this point, a couple of these players would have trouble playing their way off the list even with a Carter-esque revival. Let's take a look, then, at the company Carter was keeping until as recently as a week ago -- one man's All-Disappointment team for the first half of the 2009-10 season. As an added benefit, most of these players are in the throes of trade talks. As I mentioned above, Carter no longer leads this list. But another former Net does:
Richard Jefferson, Spurs
I generally like surprising you folks with my lists, but this particularly entry is rapidly treading toward dead-horse territory. In a season in which virtually every small forward who changed teams in the offseason has proven disappointing (Carter, Turkoglu and Trevor Ariza, to name a few), Jefferson has outshone them as one of the offseason's biggest busts.
For starters, his defense has slipped quite a bit from his days in New Jersey. In recent loses to both Portland and the Lakers, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich could be seen showing his frustration after Jefferson blew a rotation on an open 3-point shooter.
San Antonio might be able to live with that if Jefferson could contribute more offensively. He averaged 21.9 points per 40 minutes in Milwaukee last season but is limping along at just 15.6 for the Spurs, with only a slight increase in shooting percentage. In fact, the Spurs have to be particularly disappointed that his 3-point percentage has dipped from 39.7 last season to 34.9. With all the attention Tim Duncan gets, that was one area in which he figured to thrive. And with a $14.2 million cap number and another year left on his deal, his contract has become a huge millstone around the Spurs' necks.
He's at least helped in one respect: Jefferson remains one of the game's most effective minute sponges, playing 49 of 50 games for a creaky San Antonio squad and averaging 31.2 minutes a night. That can't be overstated on a squad for which Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Duncan have spent the season battling assorted ailments. Unfortunately, he just hasn't been anywhere near as productive as the Spurs need him to be to contend.