Is a divorce in the works?Rob Babcock says Vince Carter isn't on the market, but he may want out
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
It's the same question, over and over again.
In speaking with various people during the past few days -- media members, NBA employees, team officials -- one query repeatedly has been posed to yours truly:
"So, is Vince going to demand a trade?"
This isn't just about the snubbing of Carter's preferred general manager candidate, Julius (Dr. J) Erving. But Erving's peripheral candidacy has become a lightning rod for the disconnection between Carter and the Raptors.
Some frustrated Raptors fans will react with incredulity. "Oh, to hell with Vince," they'll say. "He's just a big suck. And what has he done for us lately?"
We understand those emotional responses. But while fans are free to react as explosively as they like, there is no room for emotion among the principals in this situation.
Both the Raptors hierarchy and the Carter camp need to have clear, sober, rational minds as they determine whether this marriage between a struggling NBA team and its best player is going to continue.
New Raptors GM Rob Babcock, who was unveiled yesterday in Toronto, said that while no player in the NBA is untradeable, he currently has no intention of trading Carter.
Be that as it may, Babcock was presented with a point-blank scenario: What if Carter contacts you, says he hopes you understand it's nothing personal, but he wants to be traded. How would Babcock respond?
"Well, Vince is just not going to flat believe everything I say," Babcock said in a telephone interview. "But I would hope he would give me the opportunity to show him what my abilities are. I would hope he would be open-minded and not just shut it off.
"I would ask Vince to take a look at who we hire as a coach, what we're going to demand of our players, what kind or organization we'll have. I am not going to surround myself with friends and yes-men. Hopefully he'll see we're not just blowing smoke, that we're going to put it into action."
The thing is, a lot of water has passed under the bridge between Carter and the Raptors, water that really has nothing to do with Babcock or his hopes for the future.
Carter has heard those kinds of earnest pledges before. Last summer, coach Kevin O'Neill was championed as a man of action, too, and we all know how that turned out.
Then came the Erving fiasco of the past month. Rightly or wrongly, Carter feels he was led down the garden path when the Raptors paused to interview Erving twice. Carter has been left with the impression that the Raptors never had any intention of seriously considering Erving, and that the interviews amounted to throwing Carter a bone, patting him on the head and hoping he would quit barking.
Carter has a lot on going on in his life right now. He's getting married in three weeks. But you can bet he's thinking very hard about whether he and the Raptors still are swimming in the same direction.
One certainty is that Carter's love for Toronto is 100% genuine. In fact, if Carter didn't like the city and its fans so much, he might have demanded a trade three months ago, or six months ago, or a year ago. His issues are with the team.
In many ways the Raptors are as frustrated with Carter as he is with them. Still, if Carter asks for a trade, undoubtedly the club and its supporters will react with hurt feelings.
But it's kind of like getting dumped by your wife. You may be upset at the time, but looking back years later, you might be able to admit that the relationship had stalled and she just had the fortitude to broach the subject first.
The marriage between Carter and the Raptors has grown rocky. Communication and trust have broken down.
Remember, it takes two sides to make a romance work, but only one to break it up. Carter and the Raptors have to gaze into each other's eyes and ask themselves: Is this marriage worth saving?