Reaching retirement must be quite the experience.
It seems so far off for so many of us:: 60, 65, 70 years old is literally a lifetime away. But for professional athletes, that word “retirement” means something different. Most of the time, it comes at a point where most people are having mid-life crises, buying new cars and getting new hair styles. The athletic stars of yesterday, however, are not at the middle of what has been their life’s work to that point...
They are at it’s conclusion.
There are several members of the Memphis Grizzlies who are approaching NBA “retirement age.” Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, for example, are nearing their time to go out to pasture, according to some, though the players themselves would surely tell you otherwise. According to ESPN’s recent Summer Forecast, their age is a part of why the Grizzlies, despite playing a record 28 players due to injury last season and still-a-free-agent Lance Stephenson being their best player for stretches during that time, are projected to win only one more game than last season.
Father Time is undefeated to be sure, and will surely come for these two Memphis icons, as he will for us all at some point. Athletes experience this earlier than most. Zach and Tony likely still have a couple more season before this occurs, however. Their last years may not be in Memphis, but at 35 and 34 respectively, a team may see them as valuable at the right price for another season or two.
For the 39 year old Vince Carter, though? Father Time is probably knocking at the door.
It is hard to envision a scenario under which this isn’t Vince Carter’s last NBA season. He has had health issues himself in recent years, and he clearly is not even the player who was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Dallas for the Mavericks, much less the high-flying Vinsanity of yesteryear.
Now that isn’t to say Vince hasn’t shown flashes. He performed well at times last season, and he seemingly really enjoys trying to stick it to the San Antonio Spurs...
It’s just nowhere near consistent enough. According to basketball-reference.com, Vince Carter in two seasons with the Grizzlies is a completely different player from the one who played three seasons in Dallas:
He isn’t what he once was, and even that guy from Dallas wasn’t what he once was. Carter deserves credit of course for changing his game, for adapting instead of dying the painful NBA death that many former stars suffered from before him. He acknowledged his lost athleticism and developed a level of a three-point shot that has him currently sixth all-time in threes made, among all-time great shooters like Paul Pierce and Kyle Korver. He is a tremendous leader and a borderline player coach who surely inspires respect and admiration from his fellow players as to how to do things “the right way” as you age.
But what is that worth?
This is a question that the Grizzlies are going to have to answer at some point. As of today, Memphis has not waived Carter as some thought they might by utilizing the stretch provision to save themselves some cap space as well as a roster spot. With Mike Conley officially back in the fold, and the Grizzlies handing out partial training camp deals, this option (while still possible) now seems less likely, depending on future potential moves. The Grizzlies are under the tax, and Vince remains in Memphis...for now.
But this Grizzlies bench is thin, and especially on the wing. And because of this, depending on Vince Carter, considering his age and recent performance, feels less than ideal. All of the qualities mentioned previously - the leadership, the adaptability, and the undoubtedly cool/valuable fact that a future Hall of Famer is on your roster - is all of that worth holding on to when you have a chance to win now? Are his skills better served on a team with youth, where he can mentor for a season?
Would there even be any takers for Vince Carter? Probably not alone. But perhaps along with one of Memphis’ front court players, Vince could help make a young team better.
For example, Vince Carter attached with JaMychal Green for Ben McLemore would give Dave Joerger a veteran presence he trusts in Sacramento’s locker room as well as a rangy rotation forward. It would also give Memphis a young wing that could benefit from a second chance at a first impression with the Grizzlies.
JaMychal is surely going to get a big raise at some point, and with Jarell Martin and Deyonta Davis in the fold on rookie contracts, as well as Chandler Parsons playing more stretch four, JaMychal may be more expendable.
On the other hand, a pairing of Carter and Brandan Wright (who, if healthy, has a very friendly contract in the newly expanded salary cap world we now live in) could potentially get you more of a “sure thing.” Monta Ellis, for example, has been floated as a potential Grizzlies trade target, and if a third team were to get involved maybe Monta could “have it all” with Memphis. (Ed. Note: Bravo! -KY)
McLemore and Ellis are speculative, and perhaps shooting too low or too high (too high is likely in Ellis’ case, depending on any possible 2nd round draft pick inclusion from Memphis and that hypothetical third team). The range of possibilities involving Carter are that uncertain in terms of value, and most certainly would be impacted by what else would be included alongside Vince in a trade.
Possibly dependent on rotation players to be traded? Amazing, considering just how good Vince Carter once was.
Retirements come with gifts in the real world, maybe a token of appreciation like a rocking chair, or a check for all those sick and personal days you never took. For players like Vince Carter, pending retirement often comes with uncertainty.
Just what value does he have to Memphis? Is it as a trade chip for a team looking for a contract to waive for a roster spot? Is it as a disposable partial contract to allow for the Grizzlies to sign their own younger players? Or, is it as one last shot to be a key contributor on a hopeful playoff team, be it on the court making threes or off of it mentoring an even younger Grizzlies bench than last season’s?
Vince Carter has been a tremendous contributor to the NBA. But now, at 39, the team that currently employs him must decide how the likely final season of his career will play out.