Voters slack off

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

It looks like Vince Carter's whining and dogging has finally come home to roost.

In the past four out of five seasons, Carter was the leading vote getter for the NBA all-star game, generally because he was a consistent 20-plus points per game man and one of the great acrobatic players in the league.

But finally, after holding a gun to the head of the Raptors organization with his trade requests and admitting that he often took games off, Vinsanity's popularity is taking a dip.

For the first time since his rookie campaign (1998-99), the Daytona Beach native will not garner the most votes from NBA fans.

In fact, he will not even finish in the top four. With a couple of days left in the balloting, Carter was sixth in overall voting, behind Houston's Yao Ming, Shaq O'Neal of the Miami Heat, Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Tracy McGrady of the Houston Rockets and Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers.

Part of that might have to do with the fact that Carter's stats have taken a plunge this year. A 23.8 average point-getter during his career, Carter is averaging 19.1 this season, although now that he has decided to play hard for New Jersey his numbers are on rise.

Carter will end up receiving the most votes of any Eastern Conference forward, (1,505,169 as of last Friday), but his days of running away with the overall vote are likely over.

Then again, how relevant is all-star voting? Alonzo Mourning of the Toronto (ahem) Raptors is the fourth leading vote getter for Eastern Conference centres, ahead of a real Raptor, Chris Bosh.

Raptors GM Rob Babcock was asked yesterday whether Mourning is still "dealing with health issues" and if there was any word on his status with the Raptors.

"Yep and no comment," Babcock said.

ANOTHER ISIAH COUP

Long after Isiah Thomas of the New York Knicks acquires Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall of the Toronto Raptors for a bag of balls and two stiffs to be named later (according to the New York papers, the Knicks are always close to signing good players for virtually nothing), he will apparently wait a couple of seasons and then go after the biggest fish in the NBA sea -- LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

According to NBA insiders, such as Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune, Thomas' long-range plan is to lure James to the Knicks with the promise of a lucrative deals that come with playing in the NBA's biggest, most important market.

James will become a restricted free agent after the 2006-07 season and unrestricted free agent the season after that. The Knicks are over the salary cap through the 2007-08 season, but Thomas disciples still believe that the Knicks still have a chance to nab one of the the NBA's best players.

LOCKOUT NOT LIKELY

There was speculation that the NBA would follow the NHL in locking out the players when the current collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of this season.

The two sides were said to be apart on a number of issues, including the NBA looking to escalate its luxury-tax system and shorten the length of guaranteed contracts.

However, former Raptor Michael Curry, now a member of the Indiana Pacers and the NBAPA president, told Mark Montieth of the Indianapolis Star recently that he believes the current CBA needs nothing more than a little tweaking and that reaching a new agreement between the players and the owners won't be nearly as difficult this time around as it was in 1998, when a locked cut the season to 50 games.

"Hopefully by the all-star break we'll have the framework of a deal in place," Curry said.

Hello, Bob, Gary, are you listening?

ALL GREEK TO ROGER

- For you Roger Mason Jr. fans out there, the 24-year-old shooting guard, who was waived by the Raptors on Dec.16, is currently playing for Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus of the Greek A-1 League. After three games, Mason is averaging 19 points per game and is shooting 62% from the field, and 50% from beyond the three-point arc (11-for-22). Mason was once considered the Raptors point guard of the future, particularly after a stellar showing last summer in the NBA's Minnesota Summer League.

QUICK JUMPERS

- The Cleveland Cavaliers are said to be getting serious about acquiring Toronto native/New Orleans forward Jamaal Magloire and/or teammate Baron Davis and are exploring potential three-ways deals to get both ... Reached in Melbourne, where he was attending the Australian Open, former L.A. Lakers and Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson said that he would listen if Isiah Thomas calls about the Knicks coaching job. Lenny Wilkens resigned on Saturday and assistant Herb Williams took over for the rest of the season ... Vince Carter, surprisingly enough, has cancelled his annual Youth Basketball Academy in Toronto, as well as his Charity Game. Carter may not be the most loyal guy in the world, but his charity game and basketball academy meant a lot to him. Another Raptor, or perhaps the organization itself, should pick up the ball and organize an academy in Toronto for this summer.


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