About an hour before tip-off of last night’s matchup between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Brooklyn Nets, former teammates, Vince Carter and Brook Lopez, took a break from warming up to sit on the sidelines and catch up. Both players, who are now veterans on opposing teams, shared laughs as they looked on to the court. In 2008-2009, these two were teammates for the New Jersey Nets. Lopez was a first-round draft pick out of Stanford University, and Carter was the team’s captain, a mentor to Lopez and an athlete in his prime. For Carter, it was his fifth season with the Nets, and eleventh season in the NBA.
They were part of a developing team who struggled to get wins throughout the season. Led by a veteran, Carter. The following year Carter left the Nets to play for the Orlando Magic. Lopez, the 7-foot center, now plays a similar role leading younger players on the court while trade rumors swirl around him.
Now the only thing separating these two are the years left they have in the league. For Carter, this could have been the last time the 40-year-old played on the Nets’ court.
On Monday, the Brooklyn Nets played the Memphis Grizzlies at Barclays Center. Both teams had one goal: to close the first half of the season with a week of wins. The Grizzlies were coming off a big loss to the number one team in the Association, the Golden State Warriors, and the Nets were trying to snap a twelve-game losing streak. Unfortunately for the Nets, the game didn’t go as planned, falling to the Grizzlies 112-103.
“That’s a very good team we just played and I think the good thing is we were out there, we competed to the end and we were aggressive and physical with them,” said Lopez. “They definitely make their mark by grinding games out and being tough, being physical and I think we responded to that.”
Lopez and Nets’ guard Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets in points, each scoring 17. Guard Sean Kilpatrick added 15 points off the bench. While Dinwiddie scored a season high, Lopez was under his average of 20.5 points per game, and the combined points were not enough to close the lasting 8-point gap the Grizzlies took in the first quarter.
On the other side of the ball, Mike Conley Jr. led the Grizzles with 32 points, and Marc Gasol followed behind with 19 points. Carter added 14 points, and completed 4-of-5 3-pointers, including one off a bounce pass from Gasol, that went between the legs of Luis Scola – which made many Vince Carter fans in the building go wild.
When Vince Carter turned 40 in January, he became the oldest player in the NBA.
“I don’t want to just be an old guy who sits in the league,” Carter said. “I want to be an old guy who’s competing, so I know I need to take care of my body, and make sure I’m prepared to play. I know I can still play at this level, so I have to put a lot of work in to be able to do so.”
When Carter was in his prime playing for the Toronto Raptors and the New Jersey Nets, he averaged about 23.5 points per games, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Now he averages 8.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.
“I’ve accepted my role, and my mentality is to take advantage [of my age] and dominate that role, plain and simple,” Carter said. “The opportunities I had as a young player were given to me. The keys were given to me to be as good as I possibly could be, and I wanted to dominate that role at that time. My mentality hasn’t changed, just minutes and opportunities and touches have changed.”