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Part of a cure for what ails the Raptors might be the addition of, say, a 15-year NBA veteran in his mid- to late-30s who has been through the ringer and could help mentor young players with his first-hand knowledge, taking some of the pressure off a coach whose voice is constantly heard.
Someone like, say, Vince Carter.
“They were very beneficial in my career from day one . . . just in learning what the NBA is about,” Carter said after his Dallas Mavericks held their game-day shootaround at the Air Canada Centre on Friday. “Second day of practice, Charles Oakley put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘I’m going to show you the way.’ What do you say to that?
This is not to suggest Carter is the guy, even if his contract does expire at the end of this season, the Raptors small forward position is one glaring weakness and he’s not quite ready to hang up his sneakers.
It isn’t a big surprise to close followers that the New York Knicks are back among the league leaders. They added age and wisdom in the form of Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby and have flourished this season.
Nor should it be a surprise that the aging of the Knicks came under the guidance of general manager Glen Grunwald, the same GM who added Oakley and a raft of geezers in Toronto before the Raptors reached their highest highs.
“It’s very valuable,” Casey said of the role the 35-year-old Carter has assumed in Dallas. “I’m sure he wasn’t that way when he was here. He’s grown into that role in that he’s been very valuable to their team, to their locker room, as far as experience.
“He’s been through it, has been through the heartaches and ups and downs of building, being a young player (and) budding star in the league.”
And now he’s as much mentor as anything.
“I think I have enough appreciation from some of these young guys to trust what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen,” said Carter.
So Casey trods on with the players he has, a bit wistful for the kind he doesn’t have.
“You can’t rush experience,” he said. “You just have to go through it. You wish you had a magic wand to say, ‘Okay, here’s 10 years of experience’ . . . (but) you can’t. There’s nothing but time. It’s just like children. You can’t give it to them; they have to experience it.”
Carter, meanwhile, relishes where he is in his career and appreciative of where it began. He said the first thing he does when he comes back to the Air Canada Centre is glance at the banner that marks the first Raptors game in the arena. He remembers scoring the first basket in the team’s new home, a dunk off a lob pass from Oakley.
“I still get excited and want to come out here and showcase my talent and just reminisce,” he said. “That’s something I will never forget, and from that moment everything evolved to me being here today.”
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