By TIM REYNOLDS
Vince Carter could have gone anywhere.
To a contender, to chase a ring. To retirement, because he has nothing left to prove. To television, which seems like it will be his next vocation whenever his playing days end.
Instead, he chose Atlanta — a young team, a rebuilding team, a team that probably has minimal chance of making the playoffs.
And he’s happy.
“I’m with a great bunch of guys,” Carter said. “I enjoy helping young guys who want to learn, who are willing to be coached and let you coach them and ask questions. It’s a small thing, but it’s a major thing — because if you’re asking questions, that means you’re trying to learn and grow. And these guys are all great.”
He’s the NBA’s oldest active player, someone who turns 42 next month. When he was drafted in June 1998, neither Trae Young nor Kevin Huerter had been born yet. And they’re the starting backcourt for the Hawks this season, Carter’s 21st in the league, with Atlanta being the eighth team he’s played with.
Carter talked with Dwyane Wade during the offseason about their options; Wade was considering retirement, and Carter was deciding where to play next.
Wade said Carter doesn’t need a ring to complete any sort of legacy, and applauded the decision to go to Atlanta.
“It’s very cool,” Wade said. “I think everybody on the outside has what they think someone should do. I was like, ‘Man, it’d be cool if he went back to Toronto.’ I had my story for him. But he decided to continue to do things the way that he’s done it, and I think it’s him understanding the importance of what he has to offer to the game and young players, and an organization that wanted him to come in and give that.”
There are no regrets. Barring a change of address or another season — which is possible — Carter’s career will end with him getting to the conference finals only once, and never appearing in the NBA Finals. The closest he got was with Orlando in 2010, when the Magic lost the Eastern Conference finals to Boston in six games.
“It’s easy to go sit on the bench and watch your team win and not really contribute,” Carter said. “Yeah, with my voice, I could contribute. But I want to do both.”
So Carter is hanging with the kids.
“It’s good for me,” Carter said. “Keeps me young.”
Toronto is off to the best start in the NBA at 20-4, four games clear of Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference already (and four games in the loss column ahead of Philadelphia as well).
The scary thing is, it could have been better.
It’s been forgotten, but the Raptors’ season also includes a three-game losing streak — all in a five-day span last month. They lost by 16 against New Orleans to fall to 12-2, then wasted a 19-point lead and lost to Detroit, then watched Kawhi Leonard miss late in regulation in what became an overtime loss to Boston.
They’re 8-0 since, and first-year coach Nick Nurse has his team rolling.
“Nick has done a really good job with this team and the way they play,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said.
THE WEEK AHEAD
A game per day to check out this week:
Oklahoma City at Detroit, Monday: Former teammates Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson seem to like going head-to-head.
San Antonio at Utah, Tuesday: The Spurs struggled with the Jazz last season, and this opens a tough road back-to-back.
Philadelphia at Toronto, Wednesday: The Raptors have opened up a sizable lead in the East, and face a good test here.
New York at Boston, Thursday: After a sluggish start, the Celtics are starting to look like the team many envisioned.
Golden State at Milwaukee, Friday: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the same floor is must-watch.
Miami at L.A. Clippers, Saturday: Wade is eager for this — his wife and their newborn daughter are currently staying in Los Angeles.
Milwaukee at Toronto, Sunday: A matchup of two of the East’s best teams, and it’s never too early to think about positioning.
Not even two months into the season, and the Golden State Warriors have already done something that no team in more than 50 years has accomplished.
The Warriors are the second team in NBA history, joining the 1961-62 Los Angeles Lakers, to have three different players with a 50-point game in the same regular season. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have reached 50 already this season.
The 1961-62 Lakers’ trio to do so: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Rudy LaRusso.
Could Golden State get a fourth into the 50-point column? Who knows, but remember, DeMarcus Cousins — who hasn’t played yet this season — has a pair of 50-point games in on his career resume.