After a couple of games in Northern California, the Cleveland Cavaliers booked a trip to wine country for Thursday morning before heading to Utah for a date with the Jazz on Saturday. With an unexpected loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday evening, the Napa cabernet sauvignons aren’t going to taste nearly as sweet.
At the ripe age of 40, 10-time All-Star Vince Carter ruined an otherwise brilliant idea by Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue. From the moment Carter stepped on the floor in the late first quarter, the veteran made an impact. Once he got rolling, the Cavs looked stunned.
“I mean, he made some bombs,” LeBron James said following the Cavs 109-95 loss to Sacramento. “He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason, let’s not take that for granted. Once he got going, we couldn’t slow him down.”
After signing a one-year, $8 million deal with the Kings over the summer, the 20-year NBA vet has played sparingly as the team develops its young core. Carter hadn’t played in a week due to a rib issue, but coach Dave Joerger knew he would need the 40-year-old to steal some minutes against a James.
“He was fantastic, I don’t even know what to say,” Joerger said. “It just made me smile. That was before he hit all the threes at the end.”
Carter came into the night with a season-high of eight points. Against Cleveland, he went off for 24 points off the bench on 10-of-12 shooting, including 4-for-5 from behind the arc. He added five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block in 30 minutes of play.
“I really love Vince playing out there with us because he just knows how to play the game,” Garrett Temple said. “When he gets hot, he’s still one of the best shooters in the league.”
Despite his advancing age for an NBA regular and being mostly out of the rotation for Sacramento, Carter found a way to post a plus-21 in the plus/minus category.
“Just his presence and his ability to shoot the ball and defensively to talk and communicate is what makes him so important,” Temple added.
The Cavs charged back and took the lead in the third quarter, but Carter’s leadership and steadiness helped the Kings right the ship and regain the momentum of the game. He dropped in eight points in the quarter and followed that up with seven in the fourth as Sacramento pulled away.
With 20 seconds remaining in the game, Joerger pulled Carter, allowing the veteran forward to get a curtain call from the Sacramento faithful. They responded with a standing ovation.
“It was cool to have a moment like that with the fans,” Carter said. “I’m very thankful for it, to be honest.”
According to the team, this was the first time in NBA history that a 40-plus-year-old player has scored 20 or more points off the bench.
With the win, Sacramento improved to 12-22 on the season. They’ll play five more at Golden 1 Center before heading out on the road.