Meet the slackers

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

Slacking off must run in the family.

But, perhaps, so does telling the truth.

Shortly after Vince Carter confessed to not always giving it his all on the basketball court, his cousin, Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady, admitted that he too experienced nights when he refused to rev up the engine, telling Sports Illustrated magazine recently that "some nights I did slack off" while adding that "I'm not going to sit here and say I played my hardest every night."

McGrady was subsequently hammered by fans in Orlando, where he once played, and by some members of the Orlando media.

On the other hand, there have been suggestions that Carter and McGrady are only being honest, that everyone should stop shooting the messenger because taking nights off in the NBA is a regular occurrence, given the toughness of the regular season schedule.

Veteran Detroit Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace, for one, believes that the cousins are being falsely vilified.

"There's going to be times when people say it looked like we weren't going hard, because it happens," Wallace told the Detroit Free Press.

"I don't know (any one) in this league who goes hard for 82 games, plus the playoffs."

You know what? There's probably a lot of truth to that. It's generally agreed that there are too many games in the NBA and NHL and it's impossible for players, who constantly crisscross the continent, to be able to play hard every single game.

So dump on Carter for being a wimp and a whiner. But when he says that he didn't always give it 100% ... Well, he's probably not alone.

GETTING DOWN AND DIRTY

If the Raptors' Matt Bonner gets named to the team to compete at the all-star weekend's Rookie Challenge on Feb.18, he can expect to hear from the NBA beforehand. It seems last year's impromptu, unscheduled slam contest in the wanning minutes of the Rookie Game embarrassed the NBA to the point where league officials plan to talk with all of the participants in this year's game.

In the final minutes of last year's rookie game, the players, apparently bored as the sophomore players were easily spanking the rookies, began taking turns performing highlight-reel dunks, and generally having fun, when they were supposed to be competing.

"We've got to make it clear to the players that they are expected to play basketball and compete," deputy NBA commission Russ Granik told the Denver Post. "We're going to meet with the players and coaches and let them know it's important for the league that the game be played in a certain way."

Yeah, you can't be having fun in that all-important rookie-sophomore game.

TAKING A STAND

On Dec.27, the New Orleans Hornets traded David Wesley to the Houston Rockets for Jim Jackson and Bostjan Nachbar, but as of yesterday, only Nachbar had bothered to show up in the Big Easy.

Jackson, a veteran swingman, reportedly (he hasn't actually spoken to the media about the trade), was disappointed to be traded to the worst team in the NBA (3-29) and is hoping the holdout will force the Hornets into trading him to a contender.

There are plenty of NBA team officials and fans who are quietly hoping that New Orleans GM Allan Bristow holds firm and refuses to bend to Jackson's prima donna act. On the other hand, Jackson's decision to hold out shouldn't come as a surprise. This is a guy who began his NBA career by holding out. Drafted fourth overall, prior to the NBA creating its rookie scale, Jackson felt that he was worth more than what the Mavericks had offered, and held out for 54 games.

Jackson continues to hide behind his agent, Mark Termini, who has spoken about the trade.

But to Bristow's credit, at least the Hornets are not paying Jackson not to report. The Raptors, meanwhile, continue to pay Alonzo Mourning to sit around Miami in attempt to heal his battered body. Toronto GM Rob Babcock seems to have no problem with the fact that the organization is paying big dollars to a guy who may never play in Toronto -- whether he's healthy or not.

ODDS AND ENDS

- Two-time NBA all-star Jayson Williams, who was acquitted in April of aggravated manslaughter charges in the shooting death of a limousine driver, is reportedly set to make a comeback in the Continental Basketball League with the Idaho Stampede ... You have to feel for a guy like Portland Trail Blazers guard Derek Anderson. The Louisville native might be forced to leave the team this week to attend a family matter at home. Anderson revealed that his mother, Brenda Anderson, has fallen off the wagon, after being sober for five years, and has disappeared ... Great new nickname for the Raptors' Chris Bosh: 'Heir Canada'.

FAST TIMES IN THE NBA

- More negative publicity for the NBA. Former Magic forward Don Reid, according to the Orlando Sentinel, has been charged with second-degree assault by the Seminole County State attorney after the 6-foot-8, 250-pound ex-hoopster reportedly slammed his 5-foot-10, 160-pound business partner to the concrete floor and punched and kicked him. The incident was supposedly caught on a security camera. One must assume that the disagreement was not a result of too much cream in Reid's coffee, although, you never know. On a positive note, the NBA and NBA players union have combined to contribute $1 million (US) to tsunami relief. There is no truth to the rumour that the NHL and NHLPA plan to make a major contribution to victims of hot-air disease.


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