For Vince Carter, it was the cookies.
At least according to Grant Hill, who as this series has shown, was the Prophet of Aaron Nelson during his time in the Valley.
“I think it takes some time to see the results but he is working with Aaron (trainer Aaron Nelson) doing his exercises, I think he needs to improve his diet a little bit, that is just my own personal opinion.
“He eats one too many cookies on that plane but he is making an attempt to try to do what he needs to do to be taking care of his body...so hopefully he will continue to work hard. We have got to make some improvements on his diet.”
First of all, this makes me wonder why Hill got into ownership (coincidentally of the team Carter now plays for, the Hawks) and broadcasting (at NBATV) rather than coaching or front office work, but also it’s crazy to think that this is where Carter was nearly a decade ago and that he still managed to extend his career even further.
Prior to joining the Suns in 2011, Carter was coming off a string of healthy seasons with the Nets and Magic, but also was nearing age 35 and probably starting to think about what the back nine of his career would look like. As I’m sure Aaron Nelson would admit, looking directly at games played or stats is not a proper measure of the way a training staff helps a player. So while Carter was only in Phoenix for 51 games before leaving for Dallas, he played nearly a full season for the next three years as well, planting the seeds for his nearly unprecedented longevity in the NBA.
You’ve gotta love what Carter playfully said back to Hill after Hill jeered him about his diet: “If he can do it, I’m drinking whatever he’s drinking.”
Of course, Hill wasn’t drinking any sort of Kool-Aid or magic elixir. As we covered in part one, Nelson’s preventative measures, creative use of technology, and dedication to his craft, simply opened players like Hill’s eyes to the truly faulty parts of their body and how to get ahead of injuries going forward.
More from Mike Schmitz (now of ESPN, back at this time merely a Blog Boy):
The player formerly known as Half-Man, Half-Amazing is well aware that he’s viewed as only half of the player he used to be when he dominated dunk contests, jumped over seven-footers and averaged over 20 points per game in 10 of his first 11 seasons in the league.
“Yeah, for the last three years I’ve heard that,” Carter said. “It doesn’t bother me. I trust in my game, I believe in my game.”
He went on to say he thinks, like Hill and Nash, he can get better with age. Although his scoring averages are about five points lower than they were two years ago, Carter believes he’s a smarter, more efficient player, as he’s shooting a career-best 47 percent from the field this season.
“You here all the time, ‘Oh he’s not as quick, he doesn’t jump as high,’ that’s all right but I feel like I’m more effective,” he said. “Maybe you lose a step, maybe you don’t jump as high but you can be more effective.”
We have to extrapolate a bit more with Carter than with Hill or Shaquille O’Neal, who was featured in part two. Carter scored just 14 a game on 42 percent shooting in just over half a season with the Suns. Most won’t even remember his time in the Valley.
Still, Carter played at least 92 percent of games during his age-35, 36 and 37 seasons directly after the time he spent with Hill, Nelson, and the rest of the Suns’ training staff. Most importantly, Carter’s comments during his time in purple and orange shows the legend of Nelson.
By 2011, word of the work Nelson and his staff had done with players like Hill, O’Neal and others had made its way around the league. Players like Hill were advocating for buddies like Carter to come to Phoenix and experience it for themselves, while someone with the megaphone O’Neal has was bound to draw attention toward it.
So Carter is a bit of a background figure on the Nelson All-Stars, but nonetheless important. First of all, it takes something for a player to swallow their pride and admit that they could use some help crafting a diet and treatment plan. Carter didn’t decide to come to the Suns — he was traded. But thanks to Carter’s willingness to listen, he made the most of his time here and showed other players something important: Come to Phoenix, and you will feel better than ever.
This was around the time I really started becoming a diehard Suns fan, and one of the most fun in-person experiences I had at the arena prior to covering the team was during the short time Carter donned the Sunsplosion on his chest.
The guy is so savvy and athletic that he couldn’t help but pile up highlights, even at age 34:
Maybe Carter’s not the first player Suns fans think of when they remember the impact that Nelson had on the franchise, but he’s a perfect example of the ripple effect of Nelson’s reputation making its way around the NBA.