The Nuggets Anthony Carter knows about second chances. As a high school drop-out, he didn’t have many options. It was either sell drugs and rob people, like his friends were doing, or play ball.
Carter chose the latter, and he became one of the best basketball hustlers on the streets of ATL. That’s right, “hustler.”
But it didn’t sit right with AC, because he feared he would eventually turn to harder crime — like his seven uncles, all of whom have been in prison at one time or another. He was also afraid he’d wind up dead.
Fortunately, Carter found another way out.
That avenue presented itself on a night when AC had torched an opponent for thirty in a midnight rec-league game. That same player asked Carter if he wanted to go back to school. When Carter said he’d consider it, he was handed the number of a JC coach out in Cali, at Saddleback Community College.
AC had to be prodded by a mentor, but he eventually made the call, headed west to the OC and his legit basketball career was off and running.
But two seasons ago, after seven years in the Association, it looked like the 33-year-old Carter’s NBA run might be over. And without any interest from the league, he was forced to play for the Scafati Basket of Italy. It was the worst basketball experience of his life.
Start with a ratio of six days of practice a week to one game played, add the eight-hour bus rides to away games, and a language barrier which made it difficult to order at restaurants (he had to call teammates to help), and you have a recipe for homesickness.
In fact, Carter grew so disenchanted, he cut a deal with Scafati to buy out his own contract for $75,000, so he could return to the states and give it one last shot. It was a move he calls “one of the biggest gambles of my life.”
That gamble paid off when the Nuggets signed him. And, as if to reward them, AC put up career numbers last season. OK, they weren’t huge, but they were markedly better than previous years.
“He’s not one of these guys who puts up huge stats,” says Nuggets TV analyst and former NBA player Scott Hastings. “But he always impacts the game. He’s the calming force on the team, like Moses calming the seas.”
Teammate Carmelo Anthony says you can count on Moses to bring toughness and energy to the floor every night. “He pushes everybody on the team,” says Melo. “When he has the ball, all you have to do is keep moving and he’ll find you.”
Carter has, so to speak, become Denver’s Little Engine That Could.
“Our leadership and character still probably isn’t championship caliber, too many emotional breakdowns on and off the court,” says an amiable coach George Karl. “But we’re improving, and Anthony has been a big part of that.” He pauses for effect. “And anyone who says they expected this from him is crazy.”
So what did Carter do differently this time around?
“I stopped drinking, and I’ve kept my body right,” he says. “When I was in Miami, my wife and I partied a lot. We had a lot of fun, but you gotta grow up sometime.”
Yeah, you do. The Nugget organization can only hope his teammates aren’t that far behind.
Get inside the mind of NBA ref Bennett Salvatore in this candid Q & A.