Don’t even bother trying to get a rise out of Anthony Carter about joining a Toronto Raptors team that struggled last season – and will be hard pressed to do any better this year.
That’s not a challenge for the 36-year-old NBA veteran, who says he relishes the opportunity to be a mentor on a team he believes is turning a corner.
Challenging for Carter was growing up fast on the streets of Atlanta in a modest home with 13 others, with your mother on drugs and seven of your uncles in and out of prison.
Challenging is being a high-school dropout and still managing to make it all the way into the NBA and enjoy a successful career now entering its 13th season.
“If you know his story, it’s a beautiful story, it’s a great story,” head coach Dwane Casey said Monday, as the ebullient point guard joined the Raptors at their training camp at the Air Canada Centre for his first practice after coming to terms on a contract.
Carter was a free agent after splitting last season with the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks (3.3 points per game, 2.1 assists in 33 games).
“I’m still young at heart,” Carter proclaimed after another defensive-oriented workout under the direction of the rookie head coach. “My age is 36, but I don’t play like it.”
That Carter even managed to make it as far as the NBA is a testament to not only his skill level but also his single-minded perseverance.
His home life a shambles in 1991, Carter quit high school in his freshman year and turned to basketball, the only constant in his life. He soon joined forces with other players in the neighbourhood, older boys who would play pickup games for money.
Sometimes, that money ran into the thousands, offered up by local drug dealers who would bet on the outcome.
“It was so hard growing up in my neighbourhood,” Carter told the Denver Post in 2007. “Everyone was trying to make a dollar, anyway they could. I was into just playing basketball, and I was thinking maybe I’d have to start selling drugs, if I don’t get a second chance. I never really thought about getting a second chance.”
That second chance presented itself when Carter, after studying to earn a general education diploma, was accepted at Saddleback, a junior college in California.
After starring for the school team for two years, Carter had earned enough credits to enroll at the University of Hawaii, a U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 school.
Carter began his NBA career with the Miami Heat as an undrafted free agent in 1999, and he has never looked back.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder is known for his aggressive nature on the court, but he said his demeanour has nothing to do with a tough childhood.
“I’m pretty sure a lot of guys had the same route that I had,” Carter said. “But I take it [the game]seriously, 24-7. Once the season starts, it’s all about the team that I’m on. It doesn’t have anything to do with the way I was brought up.”
With 12 NBA seasons already behind him, Carter’s persona as a tough defensive presence makes him a perfect addition to the style of play Casey wants the Raptors to play.
“He’s like an old pair of socks,” Casey said. “Every place that he’s been he’s always started out as a third guard and, by the end of the day, he just moves his way up and earns his minutes.”
In a season that has been shortened to just 66 games from 82 because of the prolonged lockout, there will be little leisure time for any NBA team.
Toronto opens the season Dec. 26, and will be required to play 19 games in the month of January, a franchise-high.
Even though he is viewed as Toronto’s third point guard behind Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless, Carter can expect a lot of playing time with such a compact schedule.
“Great time for a third point guard because you’re going to have rapid-fire games,” the coach said.
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