Vinsanity left to the fans

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell doesn't want to hear any more talk of Vincer Carter leading up to their...

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell doesn't want to hear any more talk of Vincer Carter leading up to their playoff series. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Vinsanity is taking on a whole new meaning these days.

Vince Carter's return to Toronto with the New Jersey Nets for a first-round playoff matchup against the Raptors is threatening to take over the entire series. And that is before the first "Vince sucks" chant has been bellowed.

The Raptors, while acknowledging the pivotal role Carter likely will play in whatever success the Nets have in the series, refuse to be drawn into the Vince-bashing.

It started yesterday with Raps coach Sam Mitchell when he was asked whether it bothered him to see Carter -- one of the main reasons the Nets surged up to sixth in the conference -- playing at the level he is now, compared to the suspect effort he was giving just before he was traded to the Nets on Dec. 17, 2004.

'A NEW TEAM'

"How is that relevant now?" Mitchell shot back. "This is a new basketball team. We're in the playoffs. Last time I checked, it was the Toronto Raptors playing the New Jersey Nets.

"Now, unless Vince is going to get on the airplane and leave his teammates in New Jersey and walk on the court and play five against one, then that would be a news story. If they do that, I love our chances, but I don't think that will happen. We are going to have to beat the New Jersey Nets."

Mitchell later was asked if he was over Carter's lack of effort in his final weeks with he Raptors.

"Over it? What was there to get over?" Mitchell said. "I have no animosity towards Vince. I like Vince. Every time we play New Jersey, Vince and I always talk, give each other a hug. But it's not going to be the individuals. The team that plays the best over the series is going to win. That's it."

The players' approach to all the Vince questions yesterday was a lot less aggressive than their coach's, but for the most part, the message was the same. It's not all about Vince.

About the nastiest thing said about Carter -- and it wasn't that nasty, at all -- came from point guard T.J. Ford when asked if he would like to see the Raptors fans get on Carter (as if they will need any prodding).

"He's a veteran guy," Ford said. "He's been in this league, been in the playoffs a lot, so I am pretty sure that's not going to bother him too much.

"But, you know, if they can, let's see if it works. It worked once in the regular season. Let's see if it can work again. I'm all for it."

That's about all the Nets are going to get for blackboard material out of this team.

Raptors forward Chris Bosh, who took over from Carter as the face of the franchise after the latter left, believes too much focus on Carter could wind up hurting the Raps in the long run. He said the team is conscious of that and won't let it happen.

"We are not focused on the drama around Vince,' Bosh said. "We have scouting reports on everybody. We want to make everybody do things they are not comfortable doing. We can't focus too much on Vince because he does pass the ball well. If we're so concentrated on him and he does pass to someone like Bostjan Nachbar who is knocking down a bunch of threes right now, then he'll be wide open. We just have to keep everybody in mind."

Bosh, one of three Raptors who are still around who played here with Vince (Morris Peterson and Pape Sow are the others) is confident that his former teammate will turn any hostility he receives from the Raptors or their fans into motivation.

"I think so," Bosh said. "It is the post-season and he's still Vince Carter."

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SCHEDULE

#3 Toronto Raptors vs. #6 New Jersey Nets (best-of-seven series)

TOMORROW

at Toronto, 12:30 p.m. (TSN)

TUESDAY

at Toronto, 7 p.m. (Score)

FRIDAY, APRIL 27

at New Jersey, 7 p.m.

SUNDAY, APRIL 29

at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m.

TUESDAY, MAY 1

x -- at Toronto (TBD)

FRIDAY, MAY 4

x -- at New Jersey (TBD)

SUNDAY, MAY 6

x -- at Toronto (TBD)

X -- IF NECESSARY


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