Vince Carter on Fizdale firing: ‘It just makes you shake your head sometimes’
The NBA’s oldest player talks about his former coach and his first dunk of the season in latest diary
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. This is the third edition.
Chapter 20. Part 3. Carter earned 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in 18 minutes during a 110-106 road victory against the Golden State Warriors sans Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant on Monday night. Oracle Arena brought back good memories, as Carter won the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest here in historic fashion and also threw down his first dunk of the season on this night in spectacular one-handed fashion.
Earlier Monday, the Memphis Grizzlies fired second-year head coach David Fizdale. Carter played for Fizdale with the Grizzlies last season, and they have been friends for years. The 20th-year NBA veteran also recently returned to action after a painful bout with kidney stones that caused him to miss seven games. Carter played against the reigning NBA champion Warriors for the first time since turning down interest to play with them this season. He signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Kings in hopes of getting more playing time.
I love ‘Fiz.’ I heard about [his firing] on the wire just like everyone else. It’s unfortunate. He’s a great guy. It’s bigger than basketball for him. He wants to teach guys how to play the game and teach guys how to be men. Men of service. Men in the community. It’s unfortunate when you see bad things happen to good guys like that, because he wants the best for guys.
He would tell all his players, ‘My job is to get you paid and get you some money in this league.’ It wasn’t about anything else. Of course, the organization wants to win. But he wanted to see guys reach their potential. I don’t [know why]. I don’t. It just unfortunate. It just makes you shake your head sometimes. It’s a business. I’ve known him for a very long time. It was just great to see him [get an opportunity]. He’s all about playing the right way. Him coming from a championship atmosphere [as an assistant coach with the Miami Heat], that is what he brought to the table.
He wanted to change that organization [Memphis] to a championship mentality, a championship organization doing it the right way. It’s just a process. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to finish what he wanted to accomplish. Of course, I reached out to him. He’s a friend more than anything. He said to me [previously], ‘O.G., I am going to make you some money.’ I appreciated him. He is a straightforward guy, and he wanted the best for his guys. That is why you saw a lot of guys saying what they said about him on social media, because he’s for the guys. He wants to do for other people. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s all it’s about for him. I told him to stick with it and we will talk face to face. ‘I know you got a lot of things going on. I’m thinking about you, and I hate that it happened to you.’ He’s a guy who is for the guys, not against the guys.
It was another [dunk] that can go into the archives. I was just glad I could show the guys I still have it. At 40, I can still get it done. After the steal, I saw the ball up there. A lot of things started going through my mind. Should I windmill? Should I do a reverse 360? Those are things that I know I can still do without a problem. But I was like, ‘Man, if you don’t make this, what are they going to say next?’ If I missed a windmill [dunk], they would start pulling clips of all the windmills that I made 12, 15 years ago. And then they would show this miss. I can’t live with that. I feel like if I’m going to go out there to do it, I’m going to go out there to make it.
I hate misses now. I don’t care if I’m 40. I don’t care if I’m 45. I’m dunking to make it. It was one of those things like, ‘Hey, go out there and finish the job. Make the dunk.’ Hey, I still have some things left. I save them for the right time. The last I did something special in this building was 17 years ago. I hate that I didn’t give them more, but at the same time I just wanted to make it.
It was an OK dunk. I have to see it [on video], to be honest with you. In my mind, I barely made it. As long as people ooh and aah, that is still my goal. The fans oohed and aahed, so I guess they enjoyed it. To be honest, I hope people can take it for what it is worth, but when it comes to dunking, sometimes it doesn’t feel like what everyone else sees. So, in my mind, I barely got up there. [My teammates] were like, ‘You were up there hanging [on the rim].’ I didn’t feel all that. That’s tough. I got to watch it a couple times. It was OK. I was just glad I was able to complete it.
I saw [Warriors forward] Andre Iguodala running on the side, so that eliminated some of the things I wanted to do. I looked and saw him and said, ‘Nah, let me do something easy.’ If I go to windmill and he is close by, I didn’t want a train wreck. But he stopped and said, ‘I stopped to see what you were going to do.’ I was like, ‘Ah, man, you should have said something.’ It was cool. Then I looked at the bench and everyone was jumping up and down. Guys there are 19. When they were 2 or 3 they saw me [dunk]. It was just cool for them to see it. Hopefully, I can give them more down the line.
I feel good. Ask me about that in the morning. But no, I feel good and it feels good to be back in the flow of things after being gone for almost two weeks with kidney stones. It was tough. I just hated being away from the guys. I couldn’t communicate and be the guy to help out like I wanted to. I was not there. The first day back being around them was kind of refreshing. I’m kind of back in the flow of things. To be back is great. It’s a painful thing [kidney stones]. I’ve been through that a couple times before. I had to just wait it out. I’m just glad to be back.
Like I said to our fans before, ‘It’s a process. There is going to be some good basketball and some bad basketball.’ Our young guys are learning because we are expecting a lot from them. It’s great to be back and help motivate the guys, teach them about the right way to play and hopefully get more big wins like this. We have to understand how to win first. We can play the guessing game all we want. Until we get big wins, they won’t really know what it takes to get big wins. That is the lesson we need to learn, and hopefully we will be able to do that.
The opportunity was there [to sign with Golden State], but they couldn’t match what was offered here. I just didn’t want to sit on the bench. I wanted to be able to play. It’s easy to sit on the bench and ride it out. But it just wasn’t the right thing. Maybe next year. The year after that if I’m still rolling. If. I said, ‘If.’