Father Time is never beaten, only delayed.
Every great eventually has to retire, and after last year, it looked to be Vince Carter's time. Despite all the questions about how much he had left to give, he's returned for the 2016-2017 season.
Now it looks like a smart move.
He's shot a respectable 47% so far this year (36% from the three point line), but he joined very exclusive company Monday night. The 39 year old veteran scored 20 points and snagged 5 rebounds coming off the bench for the Grizzlies. In the last 40 years, only Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing have achieved this feat as bench players.
Carter was never quite as great as Ewing and Jordan (mostly because so few are), but he was a superstar in his own right back in Toronto. He's currently 24th all time on the NBA scoring list, partly because he carried the Raptors before Chris Bosh had to carry the Raptors.
This performance is no fluke, either. While the numbers are skewed because it's still early in the season, Carter has averaged 27.7 minutes per game, racking up 10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. It's not exactly stellar production, but every team loves to have a little extra from the bench while starters rest.
This isn't a temporary case of Vinsanity, either. Late season performance can sometimes predict success the next season (for a prime example, check out Marshawn Lynch's stats in the second half of 2011, just before his breakout year with the Seahawks). Over the last 12 games of the 2015-2016 season, Carter played over 20 minutes eight times, scored 9 or more points nine times, and grabbed five or more rebounds four times. He even has a few good games in the 25 games before that, although he did miss a stretch with injury.
Essentially, Carter isn't playing like the superstar he once was, but he's outperforming expectations and has become an acceptable role player. He's the seventh man in Memphis, playing starter minutes and almost leading the bench in scoring (Zach Randolph still gets more offensive love than Carter when coming off the bench). This pace should also be sustainable for the old man as long as he stays healthy, although his minutes will drop as Chandler Parsons ramps up in his return from knee surgery. That could go double if Tony Allen can recover from his groin injury and then stay healthy.
This could be Carter's last season, but it's not clear if he'll retire yet. He still has much to give, and while he won't move past his current rank of fourth among active scorers (Paul Pierce is about 2300 points ahead), he's playing well enough to gain a rank or two on the all time list.