Swamp dreams

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

Sometimes, Vince Carter can (can't?) help himself.

He closes his eyes and imagines.

"Jason Kidd has the ball. I'm on one side, Richard Jefferson is on the other and the defender doesn't know where we're going."

It's a nice dream for the former Raptor, now a Net-In-Waiting.

Carter took part yesterday in the New Jersey Nets shootaround prior to their game against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Nets won 94-91.

His sprained left Achilles tendon, he said, is responding.

"I'll know better (today) when I see how much it hurts, but it's feeling better."

Carter is mindful of the chain reaction an Achilles injury could have on his sometimes troublesome knees.

"I know the impact it had on Dominique Wilkins and what it did to Isiah Thomas' career," he said.

Which means, barring a stunning reversal, Carter will be back on the court Dec. 27 against Detroit. That fits. Carter was hurt playing the Pistons in Detroit on Dec. 8.

Carter isn't the only one imagining. The trade of the best player in Raptors history is the news item of the season in NBA circles.

In one move, the Nets resurrected what has been a pretty desultory season and quelled a disenchanted dressing room.

MIGHT STAY

Kidd's trade request is still on the books, but the veteran point guard quickly did the math when he learned of the Carter deal.

"Vince doesn't have a one-year-deal so this isn't pay-cutting," Kidd said.

Carter's deal will have cost owner Bruce Ratner $58 million US by the time it expires in 2008. The players the Nets sent to Toronto, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and Alonzo Mourning, were on the books to make about $35 million.

Somewhere in the $23 million lies the vaunted commitment to winning Kidd had been looking for after the club dispatched Kenyon Martin to Denver in a sign-and-deal.

Kidd, who signed a long-term deal last summer, said he felt betrayed and Mourning joined in the caterwauling.

Now Mourning is the Raptors' problem, as he tends to his various physical ailments in Miami, and Kidd may be rethinking his departure plans.

That's why Carter's appearance in the lineup can't come soon enough. The better Carter plays, the thinking goes, the more jazzed Kidd may become.

The Nets have desperately missed Martin's ability to run the floor and finish for Kidd.

"There were nights when we were scoring sixty-something points when we were getting zero points on the transition game," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said yesterday.

"Having fast break opportunities gives your offence energy. When you score easy baskets, your offence plays with confidence and rhythm."

Assuming Carter returns with a renewed enthusiasm and sound legs, it's easy to see what the Nets could be excited about.

Carter should also be able to help a sluggish half-court game dragged down by the inability of the club's 7-footers (rookie Nenad Krstic as well as Jason Collins and Jabari Smith) to make any noise in the low post.

All three have some outside touch and Frank is tantalized by the idea of having big guys who can shoot and athletic smaller men like Carter and Jefferson with post-up possibilities. Far be it for me to tell him that Carter's new territory is the perimeter.

"We're going to be an inside out-outside in team," Frank said. "We'll be looking for post-up opportunity from our smalls and more shots from our bigs."

And so, for all the talk of Carter just being one of the three stars in the Nets firmament, he is expected to be a pivotal one, the attraction that keeps Kidd in Jersey while accelerating the development of the 24-year-old Jefferson.

Who knows. With someone to get him the ball at the optimum moment, maybe Carter is ready to drive to the basket once again.

"It's exciting to think about it," Carter said. "That's what I'm really hoping to do.

"Add a little excitement."


Videos

Photos