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Age isn't stopping Vince Carter from taking charges at half-court

Age isn't stopping Vince Carter from taking charges at half-court

During the first half of the Wizards' 111-101 win over the Hawks, Ish Smith received an outlet pass and began to turn up the floor before 42-year-old Vince Carter stepped up to try and draw a charge. 

Smith avoided the offensive foul with a quick behind-the-back dribble, but that didn't prevent a small collision that left Carter sliding backward on the floor. 

So as an observer of what had just happened, one could sit there and wonder, "What in the world is 42-year-old Vince Carter thinking by trying to draw a charge around half-court?"

"Just stand there and take it," Carter said. "Trust me, I've been run over by Shaq, so as he long as he doesn't hit me in my knees I'm good."

Carter plans to retire after his 22nd season in the league, an amount of time no player has stuck around for in the history of the NBA. When you watch Carter play, he's clearly not his old self, but it looks like there's plenty left in the tank. Enough for Scott Brooks to wonder why he's calling it a career after 22 years. 

"He's an NBA icon," Brooks said. "It's so hard to play one game, let alone 22 years. And coming back, the mental toughness that he has, the physical ability to stay ready and in shape, it doesn't happen often. It's not easy to make it [in the NBA], and it's even harder to stay.

"I talked to him at halftime, I said, 'Why not go for 23 years?'" Brooks said. "I think he could do it."

Carter, of course, is standing firm on his commitment to retire. 

"[Brooks] better believe it, this is it," Carter said with a laugh. "I know when I walk away, I'm always going to question if it's the wrong decision. It's like everything else, you know when it's time."

Fans just don't want to let go. You could spot plenty of Carter jerseys in the Capital One Arena crowd, every time he entered the game or touched the ball he was cheered and on both of the threes he missed you could hear how bad the entire building wanted to see the shots fall. 

There's even a contingent of the NBA fanbase who would love to see Carter participate in the All-Star festivities. More specifically, the slam dunk contest. 

"No, ma'am," he said when a female reporter asked him if he'd consider it. 

What about judging the dunk contest?

"No, ma'am," he said. "I would judge it if they let me do it via satellite or something." 

Carter is seemingly at peace with his decision and there's little the rest of us can do to sway him. In the meantime, we'll just have to enjoy however many minutes he has left. For you Wizards fans out there, the last time you'll get to see Carter in person is March 6. 

Here's to hoping for the slam dunk contest's first satellite judge.

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How the Wizards locked up Trae Young to one of his worst career shooting nights

How the Wizards locked up Trae Young to one of his worst career shooting nights

Since the start of the new decade, nothing was slowing down Trae Young. 

He was averaging 35 points, 10 assists and was shooting nearly 42 percent from three on a ridiculous 10.8 attempts per game. Two days before coming into Capital One Arena, Young recorded his first 40-point triple-double against the Rockets. 

But on Friday night, Washingon contained the second-year phenom. He scored 19 points, went 7-20 from the floor and missed all seven of his threes, which is tied for the second-most 3-pointers attempted without a make in a game in his career.

Leading the effort on defense was Gary Payton II. Ever since the Wizards signed him using a hardship exception, Payton has probably been the team's best perimeter defender. And they've noticed. 

"I thought [Payton] was active from the start," Scott Brooks said. "He's not good, he's a great defensive player and he's a great pick up by Tommy [Sheppard] and the staff."

Payton has great size and length for defending guards like Young. He's quick enough to keep smaller guards in front of him and strong enough to make them uncomfortable on their drives. When you can't get by your defender, players start to jack up contested jumpers.

Young's different though. He'll try to burn you from three and then capitalize on his defender playing up to get easier driving lanes. Payton knew this was coming, so he made sure to force Young to drive into the paint where Ian Mahinmi was waiting for him. 

"Just make it tough for him, cut his water off early," Payton said. "Most of his shots come from three, that's how he gets going. We just try to limit his threes, make him take deep threes that are contested."

The Wizards aren't exactly the team to slow great scorers down, but for some reason, they've always guarded Young well. They held him to 12 points per game and sub-30 percent shooting in four meetings last year, which were by far his worst averages against any team as a rookie. 

But Atlanta's smart. They're not going to force their best player to beat his man off the bounce every trip down. That's what screens are for. 

Brooks may not have the quickest bigs in the league, but he asked Mahinmi and Anzejs Pasecniks to play up when their man went to screen for Young. 

"I thought the bigs did a good job on being up in our screens," he said. "You can't guard [Young] one-on-one when the big sets screens, and our bigs did a good job up to the touch, creating a bit of a scrum there so he had to see over a bigger player."

This forced Young to get rid of the ball and rely on the likes of Kevin Huerter and rookies De'Andre Walker and Cam Reddish to knock down shots. That's been the Hawks' issue all year, and that's why they're looking at trading for more established talent already. 

What the Wizards did against Young wasn't earth-shattering. Most teams that play the Hawks deploy the same strategy. Washington's execution was the difference, and teams who buy in to a culture are often the groups that execute at the highest level. 

The Wizards may not be there yet, but these are the small steps every team must make when building a contender. There are no shortcuts. 

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No team defended Trae Young better than the Wizards last season

No team defended Trae Young better than the Wizards last season

In just his second season in the NBA, Trae Young has become one of the league's most prolific scorers.

He's averaging 29.2 points per game to go along with 8.5 assists while leading all of the East's guards in All-Star voting. Young is a mammoth task to contain in Year 2, and if the Wizards want to get back in the win column Friday night, they'll have to focus all of their energy on defending him.

But let's not forget that last year, the Wizards defended the upstart rookie better than anyone else in the NBA. 

Through four games against Washington, Young averaged 12 points on 28.9 percent shooting from the floor and 33.3 percent from three.

The Wizards were the only team Young shot worse than 30 percent FG and scored less than 16 points per game against. 

Personnel probably had something to do with it. Last season, Scott Brooks deployed Tomas Satoransky and Chasson Randle on Young, and neither player is on this year's squad. 

But the strategy may be the same. While Sato is gone, Brooks still has a few long defenders to throw at Young. Isaac Bonga, Gary Payton II and Troy Brown Jr. could all see time guarding the Hawks' star ballhandler. Young's small stature allows bigger players to dictate where he goes on the floor despite the fact he's a much better player than in his rookie season. 

So while the Wizards have struggled to stop anyone all year (30th-ranked defense in the league), Brooks may already have the answer to Young after last season. Put a strong, long defender on him and hope for the best. 

We'll find out if the Wizards' good fortune against Young continues on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET.

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