Masai Ujiri Hints at Possible Carter Return, But is it the Right Move?
With The Carter Effect stealing all the headlines over the weekend during the Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto Raptors’ President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri decided to fire up the rumour mill for Raptor fans.
During the nightly festivities, rapper and Raptors’ global ambassador Drake brought up something that has been on the mind of many Raptors fans with Ujiri: What if Vince Carter was to finish his prolific NBA career where it started?
“Drake really pushed him into a verbal corner and Masai, being the gentleman he always is, had to say something nice and hopeful,” said former Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Richard Peddie, who made an appearance at the documentary’s official screening. “There was an energy in the crowd that was looking for something like that. It kind of came across like Vince might play for the team again or go into the front office.”
So what if Carter finishes his career in Toronto? Is a return to the city that first welcomed him into the NBA as a young adult in the cards? And if so, does it even benefit the team in anyway?
“One way or another Vince will be home in Toronto,” was Ujiri’s response.
Earlier this summer, the soon-to-be 41-year old signed a one-year, $8-million deal with the Sacramento Kings. Carter who has found ways to alter his game as he changed is still a productive player, but with the miles accumulated over a 20-year NBA career, one must wonder how much Carter has left in the tank.
That being said, assuming Carter does not retire following this upcoming season, would a 42-year old veteran be something a contending team like Toronto will even need?
The term ‘veteran presence’ is something that has been tossed around sports for decades now and quite frankly, it is one of the more overused ideologies in sports.
When the 2015 Cleveland Cavaliers cracked the NBA Finals, but ultimately fell to the Golden State Warriors in six-games, what was the purpose of the James Jones’, the Shawn Marions’, the Brendan Haywoods’ of the world? How did their ‘veteran presence’ help in any way?
Each NBA team can dress 12-active players every game. Each one of those 12-players has to have some sort of value. Each one of those players has to be able to help his team win once they step onto a basketball court.
Would a 42-year old Vince Carter be able to help his team win with him suited up on the floor? Debatable, but most likely not.
Of course, there is also the topic of jersey retirement.
Should ‘#15’ one day be sent up to the rafters? Should the Toronto Raptors organization one day honour their biggest superstar?
By now, everybody knows the terms on which Carter departed the team. When a number is retired, the player who wore said number had a certain importance to the franchise. There was respect. The player wanted to play for the franchise and leave a legacy.
While Carter has left behind a truly unrivalled legacy, his style of departure left much to be desired and for that, there must be consequences. You cannot possibly retire the number of a player who did not respect his organization because years later, when a different young player looks up to the soon-to-be named Scotiabank Arena rafters, he must learn from the example set by the team’s greats on and off the court.
Ujiri said that Carter would return to the team “one way or another”, meaning he has not ruled out a possible number retirement, but at the same time, bringing a player like Carter back may be a way of erasing the past. Here comes an older and wiser Vince Carter, ready to play with the team which he left years ago with the intentions of rehashing past transgressions.
If he can just bury the hatchet, the organization can eventually use this signing as a way of retiring his number a few years down the line.
No matter how fans feel towards Vince Carter, retiring a jersey sells from a business perspective and when something sells, ownership is happy. Ujiri’s main job is not to keep the fanbase happy, but his bosses happy.
So whether or not a return to the franchise is in the books for Carter, a move makes sense. Whether it helps the team or not – there will always be a certain cache with Carter returning home.