Vince Carter: ‘I plan on coming back one more season’
Chapter 20, Part 8: The summertime kind of dictates it all
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 41, 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 final edition.
Chapter 20. Part 8. Carter is averaging 5.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists entering the Kings’ season finale at home on Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets. The Kings will miss the postseason for the 12th straight season. Carter, a free agent-to-be, wants to return for his 21st NBA season during the 2018-19 campaign. While the Kings have long been out of the playoff mix, it has been an eventful past month. There were protests outside recent Kings home games to bring attention to the police killing of 22-year-old African-American Stephon Clark of Sacramento, California. Then Golden State Warriors guard Patrick McCaw suffered a horrible fall when he was accidentally undercut by Carter during a layup attempt on March 31. McCaw landed on his lower back and, after initially writhing in pain, lay motionless on the floor. McCaw suffered a bone bruise in his back, and it’s uncertain when he will return. McCaw and the Warriors have said they hold no ill will toward an apologetic Carter.
It’s always a disappointing thing not to make the playoffs. You always want to play in the postseason, because there’s nothing like it. It’s one thing to tell the young guys or try to explain to the guys what it is like and when you’re trying to make a point about decision-making on the court, just taking care of the basketball and how important it is through 82 games. You try to compare to the playoff, like in meetings you say, ‘OK, once we’re in the playoffs, you can’t do this.’ And that’s how you kind of prepare your mindset.
The focus now usually turns on, obviously, playoff positioning, and then it turns into the actual playoffs. You want to prepare for that. We try to teach and get guys in that mindset, mentality, obviously. We weren’t in the running for it, so it’s always tough to do so. Personally, there’s nothing like playing in the playoffs, and just the intensity and the level of play is what it’s all about. That’s what guys have made their name and made their money in the playoffs. It is what it is. I’m fortunate enough that I get to still go watch the games and kind of work it on the other side, as far as media. It’s been exciting just to still be a part of it.
I will just try to do a little bit of analysis in the playoffs whenever there is some availability. Obviously, there’s a lot of guys doing it now and doing a great job of it. I’m just trying to prepare myself. Once my last days as an NBA player are done, I can transition into phase two, which I definitely would love to be in broadcasting, be a broadcaster or even some sideline reporting. I’ve been doing a little bit of that. Postgame reporting. Just a little bit of everything. I just want to be in the [media] business. I have a passion for explaining and talking about the game, like a coach. I see myself being able to coach in explaining the game to the listeners and the people that are watching the games. … I don’t know if I want to coach right now, but at the same time, being on-air, I can do the same thing to the fans and kind of break the game down how we as NBA players see it, which is a pretty cool source for the fans.
I feel great. Sometimes your mind can play tricks on you. When you know it’s the end of the season, you tend to let go of the rope. I just try to stick to my routines and my preparation into our last game. I feel great and I feel good, and it always is a testament to my summer regimen and what I do during the season as far as just keeping up with what I need to do to stay ready to play each and every night.
I plan on coming back next season. I plan on coming back one more season. I’m almost 90 percent sure that’s it after next season. … You kind of go through the season, especially when the end is near, and you say, ‘Hey, how do I feel?’ The summertime kind of dictates it all. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the most important time for the older guys in the league like myself and [Dallas Mavericks star] Dirk [Nowitzki] and I think all the other guys, I could say [San Antonio Spurs forward] Pau [Gasol], they could say that preparing for the season in the summer is probably the hardest thing to do when you’re approaching the last years. I always said I’ll walk away from the game when I’m not willing to put the work in to be prepared for the season. I wouldn’t disrespect the game like that.
I just think that after next season it is time. It’s been great … maybe two more years. But, you know, in my mind, I think it’s time for one more. And I think this summer will probably be the toughest summer. Probably just doing what I need to do to be prepared. I know I have to do it to be in the league. When I have to have those conversations with myself, I know it’s getting time.
Is Sacramento a possibility? Or how am I looking at free agency? I don’t know. I stay in my lane. I know how it will work and I know teams are going to do what they do, go through the draft, make their trades and cuts and whatnot. Then it’s my time. I just have to wait. I get it. You know what I’m saying? So, I just have to be patient. I have to make sure that I’m prepared to go. And then go from there. It’s just all about timing and what’s the right decision or what makes sense. I’m sure there will be a lot of teams that’ll make moves and have spots available and are going to need something from a guy. Hopefully that I can bring to the table. Yeah, I’ll be ready.
[The Stephon Clark protest] was one of those things that when you see it, it’s, you want the community to come together. To make things right. To do the right thing. To bring justice, obviously, and I was just glad that I can use my platform to help the community come together and do things right. We, and I say the organization, [owner] Vivek [Ranadivé] was phenomenal in the things that he had to say after [the Dallas game]. And that really kick-started us, and we had a lot of conversations about how we wanted to handle that. We wanted to make sure our voices were heard in letting those protesters know that we understand, we’re listening and we’re going to support them the best way we can so that their voices are heard.
It was a peaceful protest and, actually, we were able to put them on a platform to where they’re heard and it was a great opportunity for the city of Sacramento. It kind of set the bar on just the two sides really trying to talk these things out and get on the same page. There is a long way to go, obviously, but you have to get it started. We want to get that. We wanted to really get it started. It was just great to be a part of.
I’m not one for the whole, to get on social media. I reached out to [injured Golden State Warriors guard Patrick McCaw] through one of the coaches that I know very well to check up on him pretty much every day. Obviously, we were on the road, so I couldn’t go into the hospital to check on him personally. But I was just very, very, very happy that he recovered and he was able to walk up out of the hospital. Of course, he’s going to have some pain and stuff. But I was planning on, once we got back into the flow of things, I was going to really just talk to him. Just have a conversation with him. I’ve read his comments. It made me feel better, obviously. But there is nothing like me reaching out to him, which I will do.
First and foremost, to the young guys on the Kings, I say, ‘Enjoy your summer.’ As an NBA player, I think you go through a season, you get drafted, the excitement from your family and friends, they get the opportunity to watch you play. You go through a season with the ups and downs. And then you go home and your friends and family are now proud and they want to show you off. And you want to just live the life of an NBA player. But I want them to understand how important it is to understand the transition from rookie season to the second season. It is to get better and show your growth.
The teams are looking for growth in between your first and second season. And, with teams now, I always say this, they are willing to trade their superstars. So, you as a rookie, it’s nothing for a team to move you if you’re not prepared, if you haven’t gotten better, if you’re not serious about your craft and your work. I just tell them to take it serious. Enjoy it. You’ve earned the right to be an NBA player and to live the life. But remember, it’s still your job.