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Memphis shoots and scores with Carter addition

By Bennett Hipp

Entering free agency, athleticism, perimeter shooting and playmaking ability were three traits sitting atop the Grizzlies’ wish list of what they wanted to add to their team.

With the addition of eight-time All-Star forward Vince Carter, the Grizzlies feel like they have checked off all of those boxes.

“What he brings to the table is what we need. He’s a good shooter, he’s a good playmaker and he’ll be a good leader in our locker room,” said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. “He is a top-five pick-and-roll player in the NBA. He is still very athletic. He still makes open shots. We want to play him in a role where we give him the ball and let him do his thing.”

The 25th all-time leading scorer in NBA history, Carter holds the distinction of making the most three-pointers off the bench in the NBA over the past two seasons with 304, 59 more than the next closest player. He feels like his skill-set meshes well with the roster the Grizzlies already have in place.

“Right now, I think we have weapons that can do a little bit of everything. Inside, outside, pick-and-roll, post-ups, isolations, whatever you need, so I think once we put it together, anything can happen,” said Carter. “I felt like I could fit in with this team, be who I am and bring a different element to the team that they obviously said they needed.”

In addition to his tremendous on-court abilities, the Grizzlies also feel like Carter is a perfect fit for the Memphis community.  He received the NBA’s Community Assist Award in July of 2005 and was named as one of The Sporting News’ “Good Guys in Sports” in 2004.

“Vince’s value to us is more than just making baskets and what he does in the box score. He’s a tremendous leader,” said Grizzlies interim general manager Chris Wallace. “He’s very charitable off the court with the Vince Carter Foundation, and has done great things in whatever city he has lived in and also back in his home state of Florida and his hometown of Daytona Beach.”

For Carter, a sixteen-year NBA veteran, comfort and fit with a city and a team have become more and more important to him. During his meetings with the Grizzlies, he quickly realized that Memphis gave him that special feeling of a place and a team that he couldn’t pass up.

“I think what did it for me was meeting with Coach (Joerger) and Joe (Abadi) and then talking with Robert (Pera) and eventually with Chris (Wallace). You feel comfortable and I’m all about comfort and what fits on and off the court. I think it was a mutual feeling both ways which made this feel right.”

According to Joerger, the comfort and culture that the team has been able to establish is due to the kind of players the Grizzlies have on their roster, both in terms of their basketball talents and off the court personalities.

“This is a credit to our core guys,” said Joerger. “People want to be here because Mike Conley is a heck of a person and a heck of a point guard. Marc Gasol is one of the best bigs in the league. Zach Randolph is un-guardable in the post and a tremendous rebounder. Tony Allen is the best perimeter defender in the league. Then you throw in what Robert Pera’s able to do and what he’s talking about and what we’re trying to do here in the next couple years.”

No longer the huge leaper he was back when he won the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest, Carter has adjusted both his game and his preparation as he’s gone farther into his career. Despite being 37 years of age, Carter has played in 1,148 of a possible 1,264 games in his career and has missed just two games over the past two seasons combined.

“As you get older, you kind of listen to your body a little more. It’s all about just being smart because I want to play as long as I can. I made a goal, for some odd reason, when I was a rookie that I wanted to play 15 years. I’ve surpassed that, and I’m thankful for it,” said Carter. “Lifting weights, eating right, getting your rest. I lift throughout the year. I do more stretching as I’ve gotten older.

“It makes me feel good that I’ve put a lot of work in to stay healthy and still can compete at a high level.”

As he prepares to embark on what will be his 17th season in the NBA, Carter’s focus is making sure he does what is necessary to help the Grizzlies win. He has lofty hopes for his time in Memphis, and isn’t afraid to share them.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team win. It’s all about getting us to where we want to go,” said Carter. “That’s the goal, to go as far as possible and hopefully hold up that O’Brien trophy right here in Memphis. Why not make that the goal?”