Some think the Kings should give Vince Carter’s minutes to a younger player.
After all, he’s a 20-year veteran, and the Kings are building for future success. Why not usher him into a farewell tour?
Carter never said he’s ready for one.
On Wednesday night against the Cavaliers, he flashed his All-Star form with a season-high 24 points in the Kings’ 109-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden 1 Center.
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“He made some bombs,” said Cleveland All-Star LeBron James. “He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason, let’s not take that for granted. Once he got going, we couldn’t slow him down.”
Carter, 40, is one of six players to score 20 or more points over the age of 40. He is the first player older than 40 to score 20 or more off the bench.
He made 10 of 12 shots and left the court to a rousing ovation, but Carter has been positively influencing the Kings much of this season, even when it’s not as a scorer.
“It’s not really about the points, it’s making a difference for our team in a positive matter,” Carter said. “… I just want to assess myself as, did I help our team or the second unit? Did we close a deficit or extend a lead in our time in the game? That’s usually how you get minutes or earn more minutes and opportunities. That’s just my approach.”
Kings coach Dave Joerger plays Carter with younger players to help keep them organized and he uses him in multiple positions, including power forward, in small lineups.
Carter hadn’t played since his defense and leadership helped the Kings win at Philadelphia on Dec. 19.
“Just knowing where to be defensively, knowing how to talk on defense,” Kings guard Garrett Temple said of Carter. “And communicate and be in the right position, and obviously being able to shoot the ball the way he can just spreads the floor on offense, and makes passes, makes plays on offense that the average sports fan really won’t see.”
Carter gives the Kings (12-22) the ability to freestyle on the court. There’s not a lot he hasn’t done, or seen, in the NBA.
“He’s got a high IQ and experience level that you can figure things out that might not be perfectly practiced or schemed, because we’re kind of new together, so you can kind of do some things on the fly,” Joerger said. “He was fantastic.”
For all the talk of his smarts, Carter said it was “refreshing” to see so many shots fall. He was also happy to be back on the court
He entered the game shooting 31.9 percent this season and was coming off a rib strain. Joerger held him out of Tuesday’s loss at the Los Angeles Clippers, knowing he’d need Carter to match up with the Cavs (24-11).
Carter said it’s frustrating when he’s not getting minutes, but he tries to set an example for other players dealing with the same thing.
“Every night I prepare to play,” Carter said. “It doesn’t matter the minutes, I just prepare to play and prepare to go out there and do my job and tonight was no different.”
Carter’s scoring led a bench that tallied 68 points.
Temple said he expects Carter, who turns 41 on Jan. 26, to have more games where he scores.
That’s even as Joerger does his part to manage his minutes and holds him out the first or second game of back-to-backs to keep him fresh when needed.
“That’s Vince,” said Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein. “I don’t know why are y’all so impressed? Its VC, he’s known to do that type of stuff. If he gets the minutes and gets the ball he’s going to make some stuff happen.”
And even if he’s not scoring, know that Carter is making stuff happen.