The former Dunk Contest champion says he simply wants to win at this stage of his NBA career
POSTED: Mar 28, 2016 8:04 AM ET
More than just dunks: Vince Carter ranks in the top 25 on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
In This Week's Morning Tip:
He hates missing games.
"I hate it, I hate it, I hate it," Vince Carter said Saturday night. But his calf, while better, was not quite right after he played some point guard for his ailing Memphis Grizzlies team. Such is the tenuous state of the Grizzlies, who are trying to hold onto their current playoff spot in the west despite injuries that have knocked Marc Gasol out for the season (stress fracture in his foot), point guard Mike Conley out for the next three to four weeks (Achilles' tendinitis), backup Mario Chalmers for the year (ruptured Achilles') and Zach Randolph for the last week (sore knee).
Now 39, Carter is no longer Half Man, Half Amazing. It's been nine years since his last All-Star appearance. What he has become is a specialist, a player whose knowledge of the game and locker room chemistry has grown as his physical gifts have diminished. He hasn't started for years, but still gives Memphis 15 intelligent minutes every night, having learned the art of role playing from Grant Hill in Phoenix and Jason Kidd in Dallas.
The Interview: Best Dunker Ever?
Steve Smith sits down with Vince Carter and gets his thoughts on if he considers himself the best dunker ever?
Now, Carter believes part of his job is to make guys like Lance Stephenson and P.J. Hairston, new to Memphis, feel at home. Yet even as his career winds down, his impact on the game -- on the growth of basketball in Toronto, which hosted this year's All-Star Game, and on the Dunk Contest that's become such an iconic part of All-Star Weekend -- is profound. Now in the top 25 on the NBA's all-time scoring list, Carter is closer to the end of his playing career than the beginning. But he still feels he has a contribution to make. When he can get on the court.
Me: You're at the point of your career where you can basically play wherever you want. So how do you evaluate a coach, or players in a system, and whether you want to be a part of what they're doing?
Vince Carter: Like anything else, you just have to do your research. There's a lot of guys in the league that I've played with that are now either young coaches or whatever. So you just have to do your research. We played year to year now. You see what's going on. Now, I look for what fits right with my style. That's kind of how I approach it. I think everybody's approach is different, of course. For me, it's just who will allow me to be me. I like to help the young guys do that. So I bring that to the table, and that's what Coach has allowed me to do here, while still playing. One thing that I'll never do is overstep my boundaries. I'm not trying to be the coach, be the voice. I'm just trying to make the game easier. As a player, you hear what the coaches say, but sometimes, when another teammate delivers it, it's a little different. It makes sense, or hits home.
Me: Is it fair to say that at this point, a more deliberate team, a team that's going to value possessions and go through options, is more desirable than playing for someone who's just up and down, craziness?
The Interview: 2000 Slam Dunk Contest
Steve Smith sits down with Vince Carter, who relives the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest.
VC: Just wild style? I can play it. I'm willing to adapt to pretty much anything. I can do it. It's just, I just want to win. That's what it really boils down to. At the end of the day, I'll do whatever I can in any style. You just have to learn. It's always a learning process for us. If we all got to choose our ideal place, some teams would be out of luck with a lot of players. It's all about learning to adapt to your situation. And the coach has to be willing to adapt to what he has as well, you know what I'm saying? For me, I just, I'm willing to fit in anywhere. But at the end of the day, the common denominator is winning. That's what it's all about. I just want to win at this point. And I think I can bring the winning mentality to a team, help the locker room, set up the locker room, and make shots.
Me: Other than a decrease in playing time, what concessions have you had to make to age?
VC: Just learning how to adjust to the style of play of the game (today). Regardless of what they say about the game being faster, and some teams play slower, it's still faster than it used to be. For me, just learning to take care of my body -- how to make sure I'm ready to go each and every day. When you're younger, you come off the bus, you can go right out there and shoot. For me, now I get here early -- for years, that's been my thing -- now I get my shots up, I get my stretching in, I get all the little treatment, the old man treatment that you need to get ready. For me, that's just part of my routine now. That's been my routine, so I don't think about it anymore. It's just part of what needs to be done. You play a lot of four games in five nights, or five games in seven nights, sometimes a back to back. I know at my age what's important, what I need to do to be ready for the second game. Maybe my minutes will be cut down, or whatever. I understand that. But personally, I make sure I'm ready to go.
For me, I just, I'm willing to fit in anywhere. But at the end of the day, the common denominator is winning. That's what it's all about. I just want to win at this point.
– Memphis Grizzlies veteran Vince Carter
Me: Do you like the way the game is played now, or do you miss the more physical play from back when you came into the league?
VC: It's hard to say. You used to take punishment. I get caught in the moment sometimes in games, when you drive to the basket and you get a foul. Now they're talking about Flagrant 2. I just remember, I can remember going through the paint, and that was just a common foul. I get caught up in that. And you get caught up in the way the game is played. Sometimes I'll be in the paint and barely get hit, and they're like, that's a foul. But if I had to choose, I mean, it's free-flowing now. That's a lot easier to play. And I understand why the NBA is doing it, for the excitement, for the points. But at the same time, the old way, the old style I played when I came in, that was free-flowing. Can you imagine some of the athletes now, with the illegal defense the way it was then? There would be a lot of scoring. Because you have to make that decision. You can't cross halfcourt unless you're willing to commit, and that paint is wide open. So, I don't know. That's just how I see it. Now, it's just free-flowing. I know you have the zone and a lot going on, but it's a different style now.
Me: Twenty-three year old Vince Carter, and nobody could touch him out front?
VC: Oooh. Oh, man. Every time I take off in the paint, every time you touch me, it's a foul. Or I feel like it would be a foul.
Me: Does it still blow your mind if some kid from Toronto, or Montreal, or Ottawa, comes up to you and says how much you mattered to basketball up there?
VC: Every time. Every time. To this day. I've heard so many guys from Canada say 'you are our hero.' I'm very appreciative of it to this day. It's like, I never take that for granted. I think about it, during that time, I was trying to establish myself, not thinking about what impact I may have had on a kid. But just enjoy the situation. I think I appreciate it even more now because of where I am now and how many years ago that was. I mean, all I was trying to do was have fun, play hard, establish myself and bring excitement to Toronto, not even realizing the impact for some young kid now.
Me: What's this about you coaching post-playing career? Is that real?
VC: I think I'd rather do some broadcasting, to be honest with you. I think that's where my passion lies. I enjoy coaching. I enjoying Coach allowing me to coach, or (offer) words of wisdom. I don't know if it's coaching. Just helping, being another coach on the floor, or just off the bench, or anything. Sometimes it's easy to translate and relay the message he's trying to portray, or make. So I think I enjoy that part of it. But I think I want to do some broadcasting.
I never take that for granted. I think about it, during that time, I was trying to establish myself, not thinking about what impact I may have had on a kid. But just enjoy the situation. I think I appreciate it even more now because of where I am now and how many years ago that was.
– Vince Carter, on being a Canadian basketball idol
Me: Okay, you're going to have to sit in a studio and say 'so-and-so sucked, and he blew this play at the end, and that's why they lost the game.' Are you ready to do that?
VC: I enjoy explaining the game. See, I look at it like this: while saying that, I'd love to explain the point, of why the decision was made. You can never, we can always speculate on what he was thinking. With my experiences, I can say, okay, in that situation, I've been there, and here is why he possibly made that bad play, or whatever. I understand the pros and cons of it. I think when it comes to being in that situation, I want to do it. When it comes to being in that situation, it is what it is. Just like coming here, playing in the game, and being the go-to guy, and missing the game-winning shot in Game 7. It comes with it. You have to live with it.
Me: Kobe said the reason he's retiring is because he can't do that stuff anymore to get ready to play. You feel him?
VC: I mean, and that's what I said about myself. When I don't want to prepare, when I don't want to come here early, when I don't want to go get in the lifting and the stretching and all the stuff that we have to do now that we're older, that's when it's time to walk away. And I've said the same thing for a long time. So I 100 percent agree with him. When it's that time, I won't disrespect the game. I will not. That's when you get hurt, when you're doing it for the money. At this point, we're not doing it for the money. We're doing it because we love it. The money's good, of course, and you want to get paid for what you bring to the table. But once you pass 15 years, you're doing it for love of the game. And when I don't love the game enough to do all of that, it's time to say goodbye.
-- Nets guard Jarrett Jack (@Jarrettjack03), Wednesday, 1:27 a.m., responding to a fan who said he hadn't seen him on the floor in months. Jack injured his knee Jan. 2 against Boston and will miss the rest of the season.
"When Gloria and I started dating, she and Matt had already been separated and living apart for more than a year. Same thing for me. My wife and I were long separated; she was in L.A., I was in New York. Matt and Gloria were not trying to work things out, and I certainly wasn't seeing her behind Matt's back or in secret. The relationship wasn't something I was trying to publicize, but it also wasn't something I was trying to hide, either. There was no reason to."
-- Former Knicks Coach Derek Fisher, in a first-person account of the last few months of his life -- including the incident with Matt Barnes in California, at the home of Barnes's ex-wife, Gloria Govan -- in The Cauldron last week.
"You guys wanted to harp in on the fact that he was a puppet, perhaps, and I wanted him to have the autonomy to make decisions on his own and not feel like I was an overlord."
-- Phil Jackson, to reporters last week in Los Angeles, on why he didn't communicate more with Fisher while he was head coach. Jackson said he was committed to completing the rebuilding of the team through his five-year contract.
"We are 30 partners right now. Thirty teams. Each of those teams own 1/30th of all the global opportunities of the NBA. So the issue becomes, if you expand, do you want to sell one of those interests off to a new group of partners? One reason to do it of course, is that if its additive. And no doubt, Seattle is a great market. At the moment, like for me as successful as the league is right now, we (are) not in the position, putting even aside profitability, where all 30 teams are must-see experiences. That's not a secret."
-- NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, at the SXSW (South by Southwest) Sports conference in Austin, Texas, last week, on why the league is currently reluctant and unwilling to expand further -- including to Seattle, which has been without a team since the Sonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008.
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