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Hawks’ Vince Carter discusses how the NBA has changed since he came into the league

Vince Carter

Atlanta Hawks swingman Vince Carter has spent 20 seasons in the NBA, and he’s set to make it 21 in 2018-19. In that time frame, he became one of the most recognizable players in the league, racking up eight All-Star nods, loads of explosive dunks, and several nicknames along the way (“Vinsanity,” “Air Canada,” and “Half-Man, Half-Amazing”).

In the early days of Carter’s career, NBA teams were still using traditional “bigs” in their lineups. Now, however, those ideals have changed, with most squads electing to utilize a center who can stretch the floor with perimeter shooting (stretch 5s).

Carter, now 41 years of age, recently sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated to discuss the changes in the NBA over the years.

RN: A lot of older guys don’t really seem to accept how the game has changed with the emphasis on three-point shooting and maybe centers not being as important. You’ve played across eras, how do you feel about how the game changed in that time?

VC: I think the center is important, because what it does offensively—getting into that coaching side—offensively, it’s a different game, the center can open the floor even more. Even as the game was changing to more three-point shooting, you’d still have a big man in the paint. It wasn’t as open as teams wanted it to be.

But now when you get the center who can shoot the three-point shot, or even out of the paint at 19 feet or so, it opens the paint and creates those driving lanes. We’ve seen Houston and Golden State do it. You want the center to be a “stretch five” now. When I was growing up, if you were a center you’d work in the post. Now you see those guys are in the small forward line working on shooting. That’s what the game has become now.

Carter makes a solid point. In his heyday, bigs were bigs, so to speak. They were guys who held down the paint with authority. Nowadays, teams are looking for their centers to space the floor in hopes of creating open driving lanes. Often times, the strategy is effective. In fact, several teams around the league are currently running a center who can shoot the 3-ball.