Vince Carter is back at the Air Canada Centre. While still a divisive presence among Toronto Raptors fans, his return as a member of the Sacramento Kings could be his last. Yes, Raptor fans seem to have said their proper goodbye a few years ago when he visited with the Memphis Grizzlies and received a Sportsnet special and a touching video package, but any time he’s in Toronto, it’s going to be a big deal.
DeMar DeRozan was asked about Carter still playing at practice on Saturday and had the following to say:
I don’t know man, that’s an amazing thing. Every time we play him it’s always a crazy thing, seeing that he’s 40 years old. We played ‘em in Sacramento and seeing him playing a lot of these other guys out there playing with him was babies. That’s the thing that really trips me out. They was probably just being born when Vince was coming into the league and that’s the craziest thing.
It’s especially true with me. I forget who I was telling the other day but you go out there and play and I don’t see my favourite players growing up playing any more. So many guys that I played against in this league that I idolized growing up, watched every game, was a fan of and got the opportunity to play with them that’s not playing any more.
It’s so rare to see a guy like Vince who’s still playing. When you see that it’s a weird feeling. Like I say, man, I remember those early mornings at home, watching Toronto playing, Vinsanity and everything about it. That was, what, 16, 17 years ago? I was a kid, I was barely old enough to be able understand and to see him playing at 40 years old? The things he’s able to do? I have no clue if I’ll be able to play at 40 years old.
Here’s Kyle Lowry, Philly ’till he dies:
You gotta remember, I watched him growing up. Vince started the trend of 360 windmills and now kids do them every day like it’s a warmup. It’s a guy that everyone appreciates in the league, especially myself, me being here so long now, the things he did for this country. Not started basketball but made everyone want to do it, he made it cool. You’re inspired by a guy who’s 40 years old still playing basketball and he can still play it at a high level.
I remember it like it was yesterday. AI, Vince, 50-50. I couldn’t afford no tickets to that, I watched it at home. I didn’t like Vince back then because it was all about AI. He just missed that shot. I remember people having a problem with him going to get his damn degree but he still played his ass off, he just missed a shot. A great shot, hit the back rim and I’m glad he missed it. Great series for me growing up to watch, me seeing what the competition was like in the Eastern Conference, it was dope. I loved Vince but just at that series, I was not a Vince Carter fan, Philly all the way.
And here’s head coach Dwane Casey:
It was scary. One thing about Vince Carter is he’s such an intelligent player. You put that with his athleticism and you’re afraid that’s what you worried about coaching against him back when he was younger because the fact of his speed and quickness and athletic ability with that intelligence. He was freak of nature with his athleticism. You put a small on him and he goes down in the post and he just jumps right over him. You put a bigger body on him and he goes right by him.
All the Kobes and all the other guys, you’re talking about Vince Carter, too, in the younger days. People forget about how much a dynamic and explosive player he was at an early age. More than a dunker. That’s what you remember him for, the dunk, the arm down into the rim but he was far more than just a dunker.
Carter is not expected to be made available to media before the game, and the Kings did not hold shootaround due to the early tip-off time. So, a few post-game comments may be all Carter gets to offer in return (a year after being unavailable due to injury). Anyway, any time Carter comes, it’s a nice time for reflection on the history of the franchise and the immense growth of the sport in Canada over the last two decades.
The game tips off at 3:30 on TSN and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
Delon Wright felt no soreness after his return on Friday, and he’s been removed from the injury report altogether. That’s great news, and it will eventually force some tough rotation decisions that the team was able to avoid making against Brooklyn because of a blowout and because C.J. Miles sat with shoulder soreness. Miles practiced Saturday and he’ll return here. Lucas Nogueira remains out as he rehabs a tear in his right calf.
In an unexpected move, Serge Ibaka is sitting out here. Casey said before the game that he’s dealing with a sore left knee but didn’t sound too worried about it. It makes sense for the team to give Ibaka regular maintenance days, anyway (he’s sat once prior with a sore/swollen left knee and once with a sore/swollen right knee), especially so since taking today off theoretically gives him four off or light days in a row ahead of a Wednesday-Thursday back-to-back. I know some will be concerned that it’s a third game he’s missed this year – all one-game absences – but given how he’s played lately and their stated goal of keeping him fresh for the long-haul, it might be nothing.
With Miles going, Casey probably would have extended the rotation to 11 here but obviously doesn’t have to with Ibaka out. The guess here is that Pascal Siakam starts and the bench is just smaller. On paper, a game against Sacramento should be one where Casey can comfortably go deeper, and Wright seemed to provide what the second unit’s been missing (the Raptors forced eight turnovers in his 16 minutes).
I mentioned this in a tweet and an article yesterday, but in case you missed it on Delon Wright's impact on forcing live turnovers & pushing pace: pic.twitter.com/79zMrIJrho
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 15, 2017
UPDATE: Miles draws the start, with Anunoby sliding to the four. Interesting look that keeps Friday’s bench unit in tact and balances the size out a little better than starting both Anunoby and Siakam would, plus introduces an element of spacing lost with Ibaka down.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: C.J. Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl
OUT: Lucas Nogueira, Serge Ibaka
905: Bruno Caboclo, Malcolm Miller
Sacramento will look much different Sunday than they did a week ago. George Hill is back from a personal absence and Willie Cauley-Stein returned from injury Thursday, giving them two of their most productive rotation players back. At the same time, De’Aaron Fox is out with a quad contusion and Zach Randolph is sitting out for rest. (Malachi Richardson is probable with an ankle injury). It seemed unlikely that the Kings would push a doubtful rookie in Fox, and that will force a shake-up of the starters. Hill has normally started alongside Fox, but it would make sense to slide Hill to his natural point guard position since Frank Mason is the only other point guard on the roster. That would open up more wing minutes for Buddy Hield and maybe even Vince Carter.
Things were pretty packed inside with Cauley-Stein’s return, which threatened to move Randolph to power forward more often – Randolph has played nearly half of his minutes with Cauley-Stein but still drew the start at center Thursday as Trill was worked back in slowly. Cauley-Stein will probably draw back in as a starter here with Randolph getting the day off.
Check back before tip-off for confirmation of the starters, because this could go a number of ways.
UPDATE: The Kings are getting weird! Not only does Vince Carter draw in as a starter, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos are starting together, which could be a tough look for a smaller Raptors starting five. In every mismatch, an opportunity.
PG: George Hill, Frank Mason
SG: Garrett Temple, Buddy Hield, Malachi Richardson
SF: Vince Carter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin Jackson
PF: Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere
C: Kosta Koufos, Georgios Papagiannis
OUT: Harry Giles, De’Aaron Fox, Zach Randolph
Reno: Jack Cooley, JaKarr Sampson
- If you’re so inclined, I wrote about my favorite albums of 2017.
- Alex Wong talked to players from the Raptors and 76ers about the epic 2001 playoff series. It’s a must read.
- Friday marked the unofficial start of NBA trade season, with large handfuls of players who were signed this offseason becoming trade eligible. (Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka are not trade eligible until Jan. 15 and Norman Powell is not trade eligible at all this season, so this is more of a factor for other teams and the players who can be acquired.) It’s a complicated time of year with a lot of understandable wish-casting and ESPN Trade Machine usage. Which is fun. But the trade machine doesn’t cover every rule, and the Raptors are in a pretty tight spot for making trades, due to a number of CBA wrinkles.
- Over at The Athletic, I went over all of these details in annoying, uhh, detail. RR readers can get 20 percent off a subscription at this link.
- Also at The Athletic, I spoke to Lorenzo Brown about the dichotomy between an historically low NBA usage rate and one of the highest usage rates in the entire G League.
- Raptors 905 split a road back-to-back this weekend. Some good Bruno Caboclo stretches and two very good Malcolm Miller games. They’re back home at Hershey Centre tomorrow.
- If you’re coming to the game today, a late heads up that the subway is free all day.
The Raptors are monstrous 12-point favorites with a 207 over-under.
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