Vince Carter turned 32 Monday. In basketball years, that means he's almost ready for an AARP card.
"He started his career with the Raptors," Keyon Dooling said. "Now he's technically a dinosaur."
Devin Harris said he was going to get Carter a cane as a present. The jokes were coming from everywhere before the Nets closed out their four-game trip against the Thunder.
But Carter is showing a lot of people the joke's on them.
It was just a year ago that Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley said during a TNT telecast of the Nets-Warriors that Carter was done. They said his knees were shot and he no longer was a great player.
They couldn't have been more wrong.
Carter was playing on an ankle that required surgery, which he had over the summer. He's returned to his old form in his 11th NBA season and enjoying another strong all-around season. He has the Nets in the hunt for a playoff spot.
"I think he's a better player now than he was when he was the most athletic player in the league," Dooling said. "From a skills standpoint he can shoot the ball with a lot of range, he can post up, he can handle the ball, he can make players around him better.
"A lot of times as you get older you become a better player because you can't just rely on your athleticism. I think Vince is a kind of testament to that."
Carter, the second-oldest Net after Eduardo Najera, came into Monday averaging 21.3 points, five rebounds and 4.7 assists. But he has meant more than numbers to this young team and could be rewarded with a spot on the All-Star when the NBA announces the reserves Thursday night.
The Nets' captain has led this team through bad times by playing through injury, encouraging them and remaining positive. He's doing for the Nets what Kevin Willis, Charles Oakley and Antonio Davis did for him when he first came into the league with Toronto in 1998. But Carter is still getting used to being an elder statesman.
"It's very new and hard to accept sometimes," he said. "And [Monday was] probably one of the hardest.
"I woke up and said, 'I got to go to practice and hear all the old jokes' - especially from the 10-year-olds on our team. But it's cool. I can take it."
Carter then reminisced about some of the guys he played with and against and was asked what it was like going against Bob Cousy.
"He was pretty good," Carter joked. "Quick."
Quick describes how fast Carter's career was gone.
He came in as the heir apparent to Michael Jordan and put basketball on the map in Canada. Carter won the 2000 Slam Dunk championship, with arguably the most amazing performance in the history of the contest.
Like Jordan, Carter has adjusted his game. He still attacks the basket, even though there is more wear and tear and his body.
"I do what I need to do to maintain each and every day," Carter said. "I have to work a little harder than these guys. I watch some of the young guys coming up who go out and start dunking, and think, 'Nah, you guys can have that. I have to warm up the engine first.'"
Since coming to the Nets in 2004, Carter has been durable and productive. If he's not traded and stays healthy, he could become the Nets' all-time NBA scoring leader late next season. But Carter never looks ahead.
"I can't do that," he said. "I just enjoy my time here and hopefully [I'll] get the team in the playoffs and just appreciate it."