Whiner, wimp, weasel. Those were the three words used most commonly in hoops circles and on talk radio yesterday to describe Vince Carter.
After five months of transparent non-denial denials, the Raptors' marquee player confirmed in a newspaper article that he wants to be traded.
Raptors general manager Rob Babcock says nothing has changed.
Nothing may have changed technically for Babcock, but things have changed considerably for Carter. He has made it worse for himself, both in a professional sense and in terms of his fractured relationship with Toronto fans.
Why now, Vince?
Why was it not the right time to address this publicly in June, or July, or August? Why 2 1/2 weeks before training camp? Who are you, Ricky Williams?
Simply put, Vince Carter is desperate.
He thought he would be traded by now. The thought of Brock University in St. Catharines, where the Raptors will hold their camp, has Carter panicking. He's trying to convince the world he has a lot of leverage when in fact he has little.
Carter is under contract for three more years. If he doesn't show up for training camp -- i.e., he fails to provide services without reasonable cause -- the Raptors have the right to suspend him without pay.
The one bullet Carter has in his gun is if he arrives at camp on time and immediately fakes an injury.
But Vince wouldn't do that, would he?
What if the Raptors stand firm and don't trade Carter, which they insist is "Plan A" unless the perfect deal comes along? Can you imagine the reaction Carter will get when he takes the court for the Raptors' first pre-season game at the Air Canada Centre? Patrons are advised to bring their own safety goggles, just in case there's some bloody splash-back.
And if Carter sticks with the Raptors for a spell, every time he has a bad game, fans will grumble, "The big suck isn't trying." But Carter made his own bed because of the clumsy way he has handled this.
Even Vince's trade demand has conditions. His agent, Mark Steinberg, said yesterday it is "highly unlikely" the Carter camp would agree to a trade to a Western Conference team, and that the New York Knicks remain Carter's destination of choice. What nerve!
Of course, it hardly is shocking news that Vince wants to be dealt. Those stories began to circulate last spring. But in deciding to go public this week, Carter's timing could not have been worse.
Apparently he determined on Wednesday that he had to get some things off his chest. It's almost like Carter was paid by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to create a distraction.
But the Canadian ticket-buying public, already irritated by the NHL lockout, was in no mood for Carter's declaration that from now on he's worrying exclusively about himself. The difference is subtle, some argued. Reactions, predictably, were hostile.
Calls placed by The Toronto Sun yesterday to both Carter and his mother, Michelle, were not returned. That's their choice.
The Raptors now have their own choices to make.
In light of the issues that led to the NHL lockout, it's ironic to realize that stringent trade rules and salary caps sometimes work against ownership. The Raptors' options regarding Carter are limited severely because of NBA regulations (see adjoining box).
Carter's intention, obviously, was to force Babcock's hand. If Babcock budges, it sets a horrible precedent. If he doesn't, it sets the stage for another disastrous start to a season. You think the Antonio Davis saga was distracting last fall?
On the one hand, most Raptors supporters want to be rid of Vince Carter and all his baggage. On the other hand, trading Carter means giving the little dilettante exactly what he wants.
If only there were a third option.