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Half Grandpa / Half Amazing
At 39, Vince Carter was playing his best basketball in a long time. The oldest active professional in the league convinces with his versatility in the Memphis Grizzlies and takes on an important role again after weak years. However, each of his actions is now a matter of weighing up.
"It's not about getting up. It's the landing that causes me more problems," said Vince Carter after his dunk. A dunk in crunchtime, mind you, which finally decided the game in the Utah Jazz in favor of the Grizzlies.
Even at the age of 39, Vinsanity is still able to spectacularly stuff the ball through the trap. Even if he rarely delivers this spectacle to fans. But that's not all: In the away game at Salzsee, the former highflyer scored 20 points. No bank player at this age had put so many counters on.
Over the entire season, Carter has scored 9.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists on average. In between, he even scored double digits in five games in a row, cracking the 20-point mark twice. So far, only four players have managed to score an average of 10 or more points over a season at the age of 40: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Robert Parish and John Stockton. Carter is close to venturing into this ancient community.
Of course, at first glance, the increased production can be explained by the increased playing time (27 minutes on average compared to 17 in the previous season). But while other players decrease in efficiency with longer periods of use, Carter was able to improve. 43 percent out of the field is better than in the last five years, the true shooting percentage of 55.5 is actually the third best of his entire career.
At first in Memphis, things went anything but optimal. The former dunk champion was supposed to open the field to the Grizzlies and solve the chronic shooting problem of the Tennessee franchise when he surprisingly joined Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Co. in 2014.
His quotas of 32 percent at the beginning were not what both parties wanted from each other. E was still hooked on the throwing discipline in the grindhouse. Carter didn't look well trained and the ankle was a constant problem. It seemed as if the former superstar was just a "locker room guy".
Not at all: Carter, the oldest active player in the NBA, turns 40 in January and is delivering his best season in a long time. Although the hit rates from a distance are no better this year, Carter does other valuable services with well-considered playmaking and surprisingly good defense.
With the veteran, the Grizzlies offensive runs much more smoothly. Carter can still give a team a lot, be it as a ball guide or blocker in pick and roll or as a slasher.
It is not without reason that Carter is ranked 24th on the All Time Scoring List. His arsenal of weapons has shrunk due to his dwindling athleticism, but the former Tar Heel is now finding other ways. "He still plays well because he's smarter than everyone else. He used to play well because he was just more athletic," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers aptly.
It is no coincidence that the Grizzlies without the veterans have a net rating of -9.8 and only achieve 92.9 points for 100 possession of the ball. Only without Mike Conley is the Grizz offense even more toothless. If Carter is on the field, however, Memphis makes 5 points more than the opponent for every 100 attacks.
The biological clock is ticking
"It's not easy. A lot of things have been easy for me for a long time, now I have to work harder for it. The fact that I can still keep up at this level at this age is incredible," says Carter. Nonetheless, the biological clock has been ticking incessantly, at least since the operation on the right ankle in 2014. It is precisely that part of his body that causes VC to work again and again.
That's why Carter takes sometimes unusual measures. For away games, the veteran usually orders a taxi to drive into the arena much earlier than the rest of the team and do stabilization exercises for his ankle. "Every little detail counts and I'm willing to do anything," said the winger.
He laid the foundations for his good shape as early as the summer. In Orlando, Carter owns his own gym where nothing is missing. There he spent almost the entire offseason and toiled while others enjoyed their free time. "You could also hold the training camp with him," said coach David Fizdale, impressed: "He has so many opportunities there."
Not always a model professional
But even during the season, Carter, who was drawn in fifth place by the Raptors in the 1998 draft, impresses with iron discipline. "He's totally professional and he's always the first in the weight room after a game. If I ask him something, I can rely on him," said Fizdale. These are words you probably wouldn't have heard about the younger Vince Carter. Back then, he was not unjustly considered a capricious diva.
You only need to remember the final phase of his time in Toronto, when Carter obviously played listlessly, forced a trade with the New Jersey Nets, only to explode again with Jason Kidd. Remember the Orlando Magic, who saw the missing piece of the puzzle for another title run in 2010 in Half Man / Half Amazing, only to be bitterly disappointed - especially when Carter showed poor performance in the playoffs.
But then there was a rethink among the former super athletes. He was already an absolute team player and role model at the Dalles Mavericks alongside Dirk Nowitzki.
"He was great in the three years with us," enthused Rick Carlisle: "When he decided to leave, it was tough for me. He was one of the few people I had really good conversations with." With a big grin, the 57-year-old added: "After all, we're almost the same age."
Carter chose Memphis and was one of the team leaders from day one. He was honored with the Teyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award for his leadership, dedication and passion for the game.
The hunt for the 20th
After the game in Salt Lake City, Zach Randolph advocated a contract extension for his teammate, whose working paper expires next summer: "Give him a new two- or three-year contract. At least that's what I would do."
Carter himself is a long way from thinking about quitting. Even before the season started, he made it clear that after his 19th year in the NBA, it doesn't have to end: "I want to make the 20 full. After that, we'll see."
VC can still keep up in the league, even if its game only occasionally takes place at such lofty heights as in the epic Dunk Contest 2000 or the legendary Dunk of Death a few months later. It's on Vinsanity's hat.
In the meantime, Carter has also mentally arrived at his new game: "I'm past the point where I thought after a layup, 'Man, I would have dunked that earlier,'" Carter told Bleacher Report: "It is still part of my game, but I choose very carefully. Is it worth the highlight of perhaps not being able to play again afterwards?"
Carter knows the answer. Mostly it is "no". Because he also knows that the end of his active career is not too far away. It is to be hoped for himself and Memphis that this moment will not come soon. First of all, it is still needed.
Increase in sight
After Chandler Parsons was injured again, the former shooting guard, who also appears as a stretch four in the modern small ball, will have to tear off a few additional minutes. Especially since he is the only Grizzlies reservist next to Z-Bo who can create his own litter and initiate decisive plays.
With a balance of 8-5, the team got off to a good start. In the middle of it all is an almost 40-year-old. Carter remains a phenomenon, albeit in a different role. Half Man / Half Amazing - just different. More so Half Grandpa / Half Amazing.
Vince Carter in a profile
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