A 'weird' time for Vince

BILL HARRIS, in Denver

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

It was the funniest thing Vince Carter ever has said: "I'm not controversial."

You can love Carter or hate Carter, but everyone agrees controversy follows him.

"I didn't lose the desire," Carter said yesterday when asked about his lacklustre final two months as a Raptor. As irritating as it is for Raptors fans, Carter's career has been rejuvenated since he was traded to the New Jersey Nets in mid-December.

"(The Raptors) were going in a different direction. They had different ideas," said Carter, who is in Denver to take part in the NBA all-star game. "From what I heard, I was a problem in the locker room. I never was a problem in the locker room."

Speaking of that, Carter laughed off a recent internet story that suggested that on one occasion earlier this season he became so seriously frustrated with Raptors coach Sam Mitchell that Carter threw him on to a massage table.

HAD UNDERSTANDING

"Me and Sam both have an understanding," Carter said. "I had a good time with him. You know him, he's very playful, he likes to have fun. I don't even know how (the story) got out and got blown up as a fight."

Actually, Vince, your mother Michelle was quoted repeatedly in the story, implying the incident was more than horseplay. So, if Vince truly is wondering how it "got out," he should call home.

Whatever, Carter will face Mitchell and the Raptors for the first time next Tuesday in New Jersey. Typically, Carter tried to play it down.

"You make it bigger than it is, man," Carter said. "I definitely am looking forward to it, because those guys are my friends.

"I look forward to playing against Mo (Morris Peterson) and Milt (Palacio). I wish Alvin (Williams) were playing and I hope he's doing well (recovering from knee surgery). I'm excited. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm not. But I'm trying not to blow it out of proportion."

In all his previous all-star appearances, Carter was a Raptor. In some ways does he still feel like one?

"Only after I watch (the Raptors) play," Carter said. "It's more weird than anything. I'm a Net now and I definitely understand that. I can differentiate between the two. But it's still weird.

"I'm still a fan of Toronto. I think it was perceived that I didn't like the fans or the city anymore. But if I didn't, I wouldn't keep all the businesses I have there. Everybody asks me: 'Are you going to go back to Toronto?' Of course."

Carter said the public trade request he made last fall was based upon a need to change workplaces, not neighbourhoods.

"If you sit back and look at it, if things are tough at work, you may need to move to a new situation," Carter said.

"I think every person would do that. And I hope (Raptors fans) look at it that way and understand that's what it was."

Regardless, Carter knows many Toronto fans feel as if he let them down.

"They see me play now and say: 'He didn't do that for us.' But it's a different offensive style (in New Jersey)," Carter said. "And we have a guy in Jason Kidd who puts you in a position to score.

"If people just want to feel (betrayed) because they're mad I left, I understand that and I don't have a problem with that. But at the same time, know the truth, know the whole situation. Don't assume things if you don't know what's going on."

The media crowd surrounding Carter yesterday in Denver was bigger than it has been since he was a young phenom. Apparently, for the time being, Vince Carter is back.

But he's not controversial. Just ask him.


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