By Gary Sussman
The 40-year old……
“ You know, when this interview started, I thought you were an asshole. But now I think you’re a pretty nice guy.”
That was Big John Thompson interviewing Vince Carter for TNT in January of 2005. But I do recall that line…not urban legend, but eyewitness account. (For a brief moment, I wished Kmart was in the interview seat…now that would have been a show…. but I digress). And what was Vince’s reaction? Just smiled and nodded.
I kept thinking of that exchange when watching Vince guard Kawhi Leonard earlier in the week….in the playoffs…at 40. And if you predicted that scenario last October, you can now double your United bonus points. During training camp, I asked someone at the Grizz what they expected from Vince this year, does he have anything left. “He can still shoot, we’d like to get 12 minutes a game. That would help.”
Back a few seasons, when he was still VC, when he could still fly, still defy, still bring the collective “Oh my”, Vince told me that at the end of his career, he would have no problem being Dell Curry. Stand outside, hoist some treys, protect whatever tread was left on his tires. Now Curry (BS-before Steph), had a wonderful career, 16 years in the league, retiring at 37 as the Hornets all-time leading scorer. And now he, and his sons, can still watch Vince dunk…at 40.
At 40 years, 79 days, Vince became the oldest player since Dikembe (who was 41) to start a playoff game since 2008. On November 8, he became the oldest player (39 years, 287 days) to score 20 off the bench. And six days later, he did it again, so make that 293 days for the next contestant, Alex, in the ‘Can You Top This Veteran Player’ category for 100, please. And, just to know that he wasn’t keeping track of the calendar, Vince has more 3-pointers (53) after turning 40 than anyone in NBA history.
But did you really see Vince playing this long? The detractors were many…and they crossed international lines. He didn’t love the game, he packed it in across the border, he exaggerated his injuries, he would never be a role player. How’s that VC33333 SAT category looking about now?
When JKidd became a head coach, I asked him what happened at the end of his time in NY, at 40, when the layups rolled in and out, the treys more bricks than in the Lincoln Tunnel.
“I had nothing left. I was done.”
Vince, once #5’s running mate, is averaging close to 10 points a game this playoff series against the Spurs. He has fired from downtown, and he has also thrown it down. Still productive, sill engaged, if not ‘Did you see VC?, maybe, “Can you still believe VC?”
“ For the first time, it’s all about just trying to figure it out, just trying to understand what the playoffs are about, “ he told me last week. “ Of course, when we were playing the Knicks or in other series, when I was the main option, it’s understanding how they were going to defend me and living in the moment of the playoffs that you hear, see and watch all the time. Now, it’s a little different.”
I’ve always felt the concept of ‘this guy is a great locker room presence’ is highly exaggerated. Players generally respond to performance…regardless of the resume. And so now at 40, not only playing but starting, what’s his voice, how does he view his role in the team dynamic, when he’s clearly not a primary option?
“ I think I’m a guy who can lend a helping hand when players are in need or have questions from your experiences. That’s kind of how I approach this team. I’m just trying to give insight from my experiences. I’ve been in pretty much every situation possible in the league over 19 years, and I’m just trying to help my young guys and even some of my veterans. Some of our veteran, star players are still rather young, in my opinion. I just try to help them and give them advice on whatever I see.”
The broadcast booth awaits whenever he decides there is no more fuel for the tank, when his body is screaming YMCA, not NBA. And barring an NBA title, I asked him to give me three moments that he will take with him to the next chapter of the VC Story, the three that he says to himself, “Yeah, that was pretty cool.”
“ The Olympic dunk ( paging Frederic Weis), the Olympics opening ceremony, and winning the high school state championship.”
The rest of it?….that’s for you to discuss.
Myles Garrett used to come to practice as a 5-year old with his brother, Sean Williams. The Boston College Sean. Which leads to this. Team is playing at Staples, and Sean is looking at the overhead scoreboard, gesturing and laughing. And then goes over to the sideline and hugs Larry David, who was being shown on the scoreboard. And who Sean thought was one of his former professors at BC. Now Curb YOUR Enthusiasm!!!
If you’re looking to spend, tell me you wouldn’t go watch Russell any day, any game…no rest days for that guy!
Judge. This could get interesting.