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Vince Carter diary: Chapter 20, Part II

With a young team, it’s about the ups and the downs

Twenty years ago, the NBA welcomed a high-flying young man who created a phenomenon known as “Vinsanity.” Nearly 25,000 points later at age 40, Vince Carter is the oldest player in the NBA and a member of the rebuilding Sacramento Kings. He’s still in love with the game.

Carter agreed to give The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears an exclusive look into his 20th NBA season on and off the court in a bimonthly diary. The following is the second edition.


Chapter 20. Part II. Carter is averaging a career-low 2.6 points for the Kings and scored two points in 15 minutes in the Kings’ second win of the season, a surprising 94-86 triumph against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night. Carter, who has a strong mentoring role with the young Kings, talked during shootaround on Tuesday morning before the game.

At the beginning of the year I was asked what to expect from our team. At the beginning of the new [season], everyone has the goal of winning a championship, making the playoffs and having a successful season. The reality is surviving the season. What that entails, in my opinion, is how do you handle the downs more so than the ups. With a young team, it’s about the ups and downs. When you’re winning, you can feel yourself, get too confident and lose games you’re supposed to win. But when you’re losing, it’s about how can you refocus and remain positive and figure it out. That’s where we are at right now. We are trying to figure it out.

You continue to practice. Veterans try to lead, but not do too much, because it is a frustrating situation. You want the outside world, meaning the fans, to stay with us. It’s frustrating for our team to hear some boos. But we’re in the learning stages. We’re in a world where we want [instant] success and we want what we want now. Unfortunately, in this business, sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. We had to put guys in positions where we are trying to win by learning in the fire. They’re going to make mistakes. They are going to make rookie mistakes or young guy mistakes. Like I said before in the beginning, remain patient. It’s going to be ugly. We are going to win some ugly games. And we’re going to lose some games where we got out-smarted. They’re learning.

These are valuable minutes for [the young players] and hopefully we reap what we want sooner than later. But we are trying to do it the right way. I’m a firm believer that if guys are going to learn, they are going to learn the right way. We are trying to teach them how to play the game the right way instead of letting them go make mistakes learning the wrong way and two years later you have guys with two years of experience playing the wrong way. It is a frustrating thing for us all, but we still have to stay patient.

I don’t do much in Sacramento. I’m still getting acclimated myself, but I’m a homebody. I play a little golf here and there. I’m a bowler, so I bowl in my free time. But I don’t do much. I really don’t do much here. I don’t think many people can say that they have seen me around unless it’s a golf course.

(Former Kings three-time All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins returned to Sacramento for the first time to play since being traded and scored 41 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 114-106 win on Oct. 26. Cousins also received primarily cheers from Kings fans and a tribute video during the game. Cousins’ return reminded Carter of his first return to play against his former team, the Raptors, in Toronto in 2005 after being traded to the New Jersey Nets. Carter has not forgotten getting booed strongly. In 2014, Carter did finally receive cheers again in Toronto while playing for the first time since being traded while playing for the Memphis Grizzlies.)

I’ve been in that position, absolutely. It was a little different for me. It was great to see. One thing that was interesting to see was watching [Cousins] control himself. There were a couple situations where there were fouls or whatever the case may be, and he refrained from [emotion]. He showed his growth and he’s a special player, plain and simple. He showed it that night with 41 and 23, which speaks for itself. If he didn’t know that he was loved here before, he definitely does now.

The first time back for me [to Toronto] was tough because the situation was different for me. [Cousins] walked into a room of cheers. I didn’t. It was tough, but at the same time it ignited a fire and I went out there and played well. Every player will say that going back to one of your old stops, you want to play well. It’s nothing different than any other player. It was a different situation for me, but it always is great to go back [to Toronto] and great to play there every time you step on the [Air Canada Centre] property where it’s in the hallways, in the locker room and obviously on the court. Seeing the people that still work there always brings back fond memories.

Of course, I’d like for [the Raptors] to retire my jersey. You’d always like your jersey retired. That is where it’s started. There have been talks about it. People talk about it, and I’m very thankful for it. But for me, I try my best not to think about it because I am still of service in this league. At the end of the day, every player’s end result is to see their jersey hanging in the rafters somewhere. That is where it started. Hopefully I will get that opportunity.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.