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  Mon, March 29, 2004


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Vinsanity still reigns despite the bad Raps

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

A woman in the stands yesterday held up a small home-made sign that read, "15 for MVP."

Considering the Memphis Grizzlies don't have a No. 15, we can assume the lass was referring to the Raptors' No. 15, Vince Carter.

Now, barring some monstrous upset, Carter won't win the NBA's MVP award this season. But the woman was astute in one regard: As far as the Raptors are concerned, it's still all about No. 15.

Whether the Raptors change coaches again, or change general managers for only the second time in history, those are side issues, really.

This is not meant to downplay the instability created by the cloudy futures of GM Glen Grunwald and coach Kevin O'Neill. But the NBA is a players' league and the franchise's top asset remains 27-year-old Vince Carter. The questions regarding Carter's future are the ones that largely will determine the course of this club, in both the short and the long term.

If the Raptors are going to keep Carter, they truly need to rethink and revamp the makeup of his supporting cast.

However, if the Raptors believe they have to tear it down and start over, perhaps rebuilding around 20-year-old rookie Chris Bosh, then maybe they'll consider trading Carter while he's still a relatively young man.

It's not out of the question that Carter may demand a trade, regardless of who fills the roles of coach and GM. And wouldn't it be interesting to see how the Raptors might react to such a request? Carter is one of the best basketball athletes of his generation, so trading him would take guts.

Just how much the Raptors rely on Carter was in evidence again yesterday.

His week-long run of stellar offensive performances came to an end as he made only six of 22 shots from the field and scored only 16 points in the Raptors' 94-88 loss to the Grizzlies yesterday at the Air Canada Centre.

Carter said his performance was "inexcusable," but given the state of his team and the fact he tried to impact the game in other ways, he was being too hard on himself.

"I just couldn't buy a basket, if I had all the money in the world," said Carter, who admitted under cross-examination that a right hip flexor adversely impacted his ability to plant and elevate. "I told each member of this team, I owe them a game. The way I played in the past week, that's a thing of the past. I apologize to everybody who had to sit there watching that. I owe everybody one."

In a wider sense, the issue of whether Carter owes the Raptors something, or whether they owe him something, is complex enough to make anybody dizzy.

O'Neill was theorizing yesterday that there are winning players and losing players in the NBA. The winners are deeply rooted in toughness and sacrifice, according to O'Neill, and being a winner is something that has to be developed early in life. It can't be taught.

So where does Carter stand?

"I think Vince is a winning player, I really do," responded O'Neill, even though the prototypical O'Neill player is more of a grinder than a star. "You can't be the kind of player Vince is, to win clutch games, if you're not a winning player.

"The time Vince should be judged is when he gets to be 30 years old, look back, and you'll see that Vince Carter definitely is a winning player."

There just hasn't been a lot of winning going on with the Raptors lately. Carter has not played in a playoff game since he took the final shot in the 2001 Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Philadelphia 76ers. That seems like a lifetime ago.

Can Vince Carter still be an MVP someday?

Maybe so. The tougher question is whether it can occur in Toronto.









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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