Ladies and gentlemen, the second decade of the 21st century is upon us and already things are shaping up for an interesting 2020.
Welcome back to The Triple Double, the first one of 2020 and of the decade. And as most people do, I also have a couple of resolutions for the column this year: talk more about women’s basketball (the reason I broke into this industry and I am forever thankful), delve more into historic accomplishments and of course write more in general. 2019 was not the best year for me, but I have faith that there is better in store.
That being said, let’s break into into the first topic of the column: one of my all-time favorite athletes, Vince Carter.
SIPPING FROM THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
Vincent Lamar Carter has been many things during his 22-year NBA career, but none had stuck out more than his nickname: The Human Highlight Reel. Many people had donned the name – but Carter was the textbook definition of it. His 2000 All-Star Dunk Contest performance became the gold standard for every dunk contest after it. And of course, Carter will go down in history for the “Dunk de la Mort” – the Dunk of Death:
This dunk during the 2000 Summer Olympics will go down as the single-most devastating dunk of all time for many reasons:
- Carter was never able to replicate the dunk after that; he has said in interviews that he had tried to hit it in practice and he just couldn’t.
- Frederic Weis was drafted the year earlier by the New York Knicks; he never ended up playing for them. He missed the first year due to commitments to the French Olympic team, then after the 2000 Olympics never made it past the Summer League for the Knicks. His draft rights were traded to the Houston Rockets for Patrick Ewing Jr. in 2008 before retiring in 2011, having never suited up in the NBA.
Carter, however, is being recognized for a different kind of history here. When he suited up for the Atlanta Hawks last Saturday (January 4), Carter became the first player in NBA history to suit up in four different decades (he started his NBA career in 1998; the only active player left from before 2000). Already this season, he had set the record for most seasons played in the league, passing Robert Parish, Kevin Willis (the oldest person to play more than two games in an NBA season), Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki – all whom had played 21 seasons.
Carter, who has obtained many accolades in his career – 8-time All-Star, Olympic gold medalist, two-time All-NBA, Rookie of the Year and Teammate of the Year, will no doubtedly go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game despite never having won a title. And as a 33-year-old, being able to watch his career flourish as I grew from a boy to a man has been a great joy to witness. As he has already announced that this will be his last season, there have been calls from his teammates that he should be in the Dunk Contest this season, none bigger than another future star, Trae Young:
If the NBA really wants to get people to care about the Dunk Contest again, having Carter would be a great way to cap off an already legendary career.
PUMP THE BRAKES ON CROWNING THE CLIPPERS
Last week, I touched on how the Los Angeles Clippers had managed to band together after Paul George left last Thursday’s game against the Detroit Pistons with a tight left hamstring.
Well, needless to say that after last Saturday’s 140-112 blowout loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and barely beating the New York Knicks by three on Sunday, this Clippers team is definitely not where they need to be if they plan to be crowned the best in the Western Conference. Sitting at 26-12, the team is currently fourth in the conference – a half-game behind the Houston Rockets and a full game behind the Denver Nuggets. Considering that some in mainstream sports media had basically said that the Clippers would walk through the West this year, this team isn’t showing the dominance that was expected.
Yes, Leonard is the team’s leader. But he also doesn’t play every game, which leads to Paul George being the team’s emotional anchor on the court. And despite efforts from bench leaders Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams, they are not getting consistent enough effort from their bench (besides Harrell and Williams, no bench player is averaging more than 9 points a game).
The defense, from which this team is supposed to be built upon, has been fairly suspect in 2020. In the loss to the Grizzlies, the Clippers allowed 140 points – the highest point total allowed on any Kawhi-led team EVER. While they did rebound to beat the Knicks, the final score was 135-132 (the second-highest total in the season). With such defensive stalwarts such as Leonard and Patrick Beverley, there should be no reason the Clippers are allowing so many lapses (and points) to occur.
Granted, we are only about halfway through the season, so there is still plenty of time to adjust. You already know you’re not going to get a full season of Leonard, so the games he is in the team needs to take full advantage of that. When he isn’t playing, the rest of the team needs to step up.
One man doesn’t make an entire team. But in the case of the Clippers, you only have George and Leonard for two guaranteed years. This is the best chance the team will ever have to become champions…so whatever adjustments need to be made, make them.
Thank you all for checking out the first Triple Double of 2020, and keep your eyes peeled next week for a special edition of the column.