If Vince Carter shows up to camp and pouts, or allows a negative attitude to become a distraction to the team, he'll soon be a $12-million-a-year benchwarmer. That was the subtle message yesterday from Raptors general manager Rob Babcock, who was bombarded with questions about the possibility of Carter's trade demands having an ill effect on the team at training camp.
"It won't be a major distraction if you're playing hard and giving 100% effort," Babcock said. "Otherwise you're not on that court."
Whether the first-year GM has the fortitude to bench a pouting star remains to be seen, but Babcock has demonstrated that he will not be intimidated into making a quick trade.
At a charity event yesterday, Babcock and some of Carter's teammates reflected on the possibility of the disgruntled star's trade demands becoming a distraction to a club that will be trying to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
Guard Milt Palacio, a good friend of Carter, said that it could be a big distraction. He believes the situation has to be resolved early in the season before it festers.
"That can linger over a ball club's head," Palacio said. "You don't want to have that attention going back and forth with the GM and your best player. You definitely don't want the guys to be swaying one way or the other, you want everybody to come together as a team."
Point guard Rafer Alston believes that Carter is professional enough that his desire to leave Toronto won't affect his play at camp, or the team's chemistry.
"He knows what's at stake, he knows we're trying to make the playoffs," Alston said. "I think he'll put out his best effort, night in and night out."
There is some speculation that Carter may not show up for training camp, but Palacio insisted otherwise.
"Vince is not a bad guy," he said. "He'll be here."
Babcock reiterated that no teams have contacted him about acquiring Carter during the past few weeks.
A report out of Florida yesterday said that Carter wants to be traded to Orlando, but Magic GM John Weisbrod is not interested in trading new point guard Steve Francis for him.
"The more I'm around him, the more I'm a Steve Francis guy," Weisbrod told the Orlando Sentinel. "Don't get me wrong. Vince is an unbelievable athlete, but I'd rather have Steve Francis. Steve is a warrior."
Miami Heat president Pat Riley likewise has expressed little interest in Carter, whose lack of toughness seemingly has scared off possible suitors.