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  Sun, January 4, 2004


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Putting team first a slam dunk for Vince
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

It was Jason Richardson who started it. The Golden State Warriors guard and two-time defending NBA all-star slam-dunk champion was in Denver last week for a game against the Nuggets. Richardson told a columnist from The Denver Post that he had heard through the grapevine that Raptors guard Vince Carter definitely was going to participate in this year's slam-dunk contest.

Richardson said he was looking forward to trying to complete the "three-peat" against a talent like Carter, who won the contest in 2000 but since then has bypassed the event.

So how did Carter respond when told Richardson was counting on a dunk contest involving the two of them?

"Well, maybe it will happen on PlayStation," Carter replied.

Now, Carter's "that's news to me" reply is not to be taken as an indication that he officially has opted out of the dunk contest, which has been a lacklustre affair since the year he won it in spectacular fashion. But Carter's current position is an appropriate one, given the polarized ups and downs the Raptors have experienced this season.

For the record, Carter said he has not yet made up his mind about the dunk contest. What's more, he is loathe even to discuss it, because he is concerned his many critics would perceive that as a lack of focus on his part.

RIGHT DIRECTION

"How would it look if I were talking about the dunk contest when our team is trying to get things headed in the right direction, or we're in a losing streak, or whatever?" said Carter, 26. "Honestly, the only time I've thought about the dunk contest is when a reporter asks me about it.

"When we get a lot closer to all-star weekend (Feb. 13-15 in Los Angeles), then I'll have an answer for your question."

In a general sense, it's easy to understand why Carter might want to slip into this year's all-star experience with as little fanfare as possible -- well, with as little fanfare as can be achieved by someone who likely is going to lead the league in fan balloting for the fourth time.

Last year Carter became embroiled in a controversy when it was suggested by many that he should give up his starting spot in the all-star game to Michael Jordan. Carter had played in only a handful of regular-season games because of injury and Jordan, of course, was in his final season.

DISRESPECTFUL

Carter initially balked at the idea, saying it would be disrespectful to those who had voted for him. The opinion in this corner -- in large part because Jordan had not been kind to Carter through the years -- was that Carter should keep his spot. But in a move that essentially was lost upon the public because it occurred at the very last minute, Carter caved to the pressure and insisted that Jordan start the game.

Certainly in Carter's younger days, his character and the all-star experience did not mix. He squirmed under the media spotlight, developed foot-in-mouth disease and looked as if he rather would have been anywhere else. In a private conversation two years ago, an NBA employee asked yours truly, "Why does Vince hate us so much?"

But Carter has mellowed somewhat in terms of his prickly public demeanour. Despite the Jordan fiasco, Carter actually enjoyed himself at last year's all-star game. And even though it would be tough for Carter to top his awesome dunking performance in 2000, he is not intimidated by that task.

A prediction? Carter seems as if he wants to compete in the dunk contest this year. If he stays reasonably healthy, the bet here is he'll do it.

But until it's time to confirm that, Carter is taking a mature, team-first approach.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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