Conspiracy theories, anyone?
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
Is Vince Carter really "day to day"?
Was he ever really "day to day"?
And just what is "day to day," anyway?
Mid-January is a grey, cold, depressing time of year, so there's nothing like a conspiracy theory to liven things up.
Carter, the Raptors' star guard, last night missed his third game in a row as his club lost 108-97 to the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves at the Air Canada Centre. Since straining his right quadriceps midway through a game in New Orleans a week ago today, Carter officially has been listed as "day to day."
But here's the thing: Almost immediately after he was examined in Atlanta last Friday, some people close to Carter, and close to the team, were muttering something about him being out "a couple of weeks."
Maybe we're seeing ghosts where none exist. Maybe Carter truly is day to day, and perhaps he'll be in uniform tomorrow night when the Raptors visit the Milwaukee Bucks.
But the Raptors have a long and honoured tradition of creating confusion about even the most straight-forward of injuries, especially where Carter is concerned. Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill was not speaking about Carter specifically, but O'Neill was referring to injuries in general when he said, "We keep things mysterious around here."
You can understand why the team's medical staff and, by extension, management is wary of attaching a time-frame to any of Carter's ailments. He's a notoriously slow healer, so if the Raptors say he'll be out a week and it takes two, it further entrenches his reputation as a softie, which does not serve the best interests of the club.
It also doesn't serve the best interests of the club if fans become slightly less likely to buy walk-up tickets or watch games on TV because they know Carter, the Raptors' most popular player, is going to be in street clothes. Nothing like keeping the opposition guessing, too, so why not list Carter as "day to day" even if you know damn well he isn't likely to play for a week, or two, or whatever?
Are we crazy to be a tad suspicious?
Carter has said numerous times he is not going to rush back. But even at the morning shootaround yesterday, he left the door open for a possible return to action last night. O'Neill, however, said he'll assume Carter is out until he hears otherwise directly from Carter's mouth.
"When I talked to Vince, that's exactly the way I left it with him," O'Neill said. "I don't ever ask him or inquire. The whole thing about asking guys every day ... guys will come back when they're ready to come back. I don't want to make an insinuation that we need someone to come back sooner."
With Carter, Michael Curry and Robert Archibald out with injuries of varying severity, and the previously injured Chris Bosh and Milt Palacio working their way into game shape, somebody had better "come back sooner." And that someone still could be unemployed NBA veteran Charles Oakley, although sources indicated late last night that Oakley might not seriously begin his job search until after the all-star break in mid-February.
Oakley and O'Neill spoke by phone on Tuesday. Some suggested Oakley remained "unmoved" after the conversation, since he would rather join a team with championship possibilities.
But at least it should be clear to Oakley that the Raptors want him back. O'Neill was the last holdout among the team's hierarchy, but now there's virtual unanimity.
Oakley or no Oakley, the Raptors have to find a way to get through this little rough spot of injuries and inconsistency.
"The cop-out in this league is to blame injuries for losses," O'Neill said. "Sometimes your season depends on how well you handle these things."
True enough. The shorthanded Raptors played a gutsy game against one of the best teams in the NBA last night. But still, a quick glance at the standings this morning reveals that the Raptors' status as a .500-or-better team is, well, "day to day."