Vince Carter has another unsavory Robert Sarver story to add to the pile. Hours after ESPN published its exposé on the Phoenix Suns' toxic work environment, by Baxter Holmes, Carter said that the owner had instructed the team to "take me out" and "put me on the ground" during his visit to Phoenix following his brief stint with the team.
"As a player coming back, after I played there, he walked into the locker room -- from what I was told from two teammates that are reliable and (I) trust in what they say -- that he wasn't happy with me playing well coming back into Phoenix," Carter said on "NBA Today" in an interview with Malika Andrews. "And we were winning the game and he wanted them to take me out. Put me on the ground. 'Don't let him have fun in our building.' Because he felt like I was trying to show him and the team up."
Carter went on to say that, when he read about Sarver's history of overstepping his bounds with the team, he was not surprised.
"I experienced that, hearing from the players," Carter said.
At the time, though, Carter was taken aback. This incident occurred on Jan. 30, 2012, in a game between the Suns and the Dallas Mavericks. Carter had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting in the first half and finished with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting, and the Mavs won in a 122-99 blowout.
"Obviously, it's surprising," Carter said. "One thing he said: Every time I scored the ball, that I was looking at them. Of course when you go back to your old team, you want to play well and show, hey, this is what I can do. And I guess he felt that I was trying to show him up or whatever the case may be, I don't know. When it was told to me, I'm just like wow."
A version of this anecdote appeared in ESPN's 2019 story on the dysfunction within the Suns, written by Kevin Arnovitz: "Sarver dressed down future Hall of Famer Grant Hill in the locker room at halftime for allowing former Sun Vince Carter to go off for a quick 15 points. One of Hill's teammates recently stated that the team found Sarver's actions utterly repugnant. Former players and Suns coaches recount incidents of Sarver baiting opponents from his courtside seat, and even heckling Suns players or roaring to the bench to yank someone from the game."
It has not, however, been previously reported that Sarver wanted the players to rough up their former teammate.
"I kind of just brushed it off," Carter said. "I was like whatever, nothing happened, so it was no big deal. It was nothing to really talk about because nothing really happened, nobody got hurt."
Andrews said to Carter that it sounded like someone could have gotten hurt, and, to be completely clear, it sounded like Sarver had instructed Phoenix to get physical with him.
"Yeah," Carter said. "No, you're right. He [told them] to send a message: Don't let him have fun in our building."