Vince Carter feels like a 20-something again.
Always does when this time of year rolls around.
Never mind the specks of gray in his beard, all the wear and tear on his body, a resume that shows he entered the NBA the same year teammate Trae Young was born.
Carter has made it to another opening night. The thrill of a new season flows through those creaky ol’ bones. Once again, it all seems worthwhile: the monotonous practices, the tedious film sessions, the long plane flights, the grind of 82 games.
“If I had that old ‘heck, here we go again’ feeling, then I wouldn’t play,” Carter said Tuesday, having finished up practice with a few extra jumpers. “This is like I’m in my third, fourth, fifth year. I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m excited about playing. I still love playing. I still love competing. I still enjoy the traveling, the ups and downs of the league. That’s what it’s all about. It’s hard to let go.”
The league’s oldest player — Carter is 41 and will turn another year older in January — is back for his 21st season. That puts him on the cusp of some very exclusive company: Robert Parrish, Kevin Willis and Kevin Garnett are the only players to last that long in the NBA (Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki also has a chance to join the 21 Club this year).
Carter is hardly chasing a championship, signing on with a rebuilding Atlanta Hawks team that is years away from having a realistic shot at competing for a title. He’s here to mentor to a bunch of young players and serve as a virtual player-coach on a first-year staff led by Lloyd Pierce.
Timberwolves’ Butler to play
Just like last season, Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to San Antonio for their opener.
After all the disruption caused by Butler’s trade request that became public a week before training camp began, no deal has been made. So the four-time All-Star will be on the court facing off against the Spurs with his Timberwolves teammates today, no matter the awkwardness and tension that might be lingering.
“I’m planning on playing him, and if he feels good he’ll be ready to go,” Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Los Angeles Lakers have exercised their contract options for the 2019-20 season on Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. Kuzma, a Flint native, made the NBA all-rookie first team last season, averaging 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists.