Only kind words for Carter

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

The only slamming going on at the Air Canada Centre these days is a ball into a basket.

And that's because a group of Raptors already are working out in Toronto.

There was, however, no slamming of Mr. Vince Carter, the team's disgruntled superstar who has asked to be traded, thereby throwing a possible wrench into the team's plans for a happy and productive training camp.

A couple of weeks ago, during a meeting with the media, Raptors general manager Rob Babcock refused to dump on Carter, despite the fact Vinsanity has made Babcock's first few months on the job as difficult as possible.

And yesterday, new coach Sam Mitchell also declined to take the bait and bad mouth the club's leading malcontent (with apologies to Lamond Murray).

Babcock and Mitchell are walking a fine line. They're obviously not thrilled that Carter is holding a gun to the club's head with his demands.

On the other hand, they have to be careful not to alienate Carter, who has yet to give any firm commitment he will even show up next Tuesday for camp, which will be held at Brock University in St. Catharines.

Both Babcock and Carter's agent, Mark Steinberg, refused to comment when asked whether the NBA's leading all-star vote-getter will show up.

The personable Mitchell said yesterday he can only assume Carter will make the trip to Ontario's wine region for training camp, without the obligatory whining.

"He never said he wasn't coming to camp, he never said he wasn't going to work hard or play hard," Mitchell said in Carter's defence. "He asked to be traded, and we said if there was a deal that was good for Vince and also for the Raptors we would consider it.

"We support Vince Carter. We're not mad at Vince," Mitchell added. "(But) we've got 14-15 guys and we have to worry about them all."

To their credit, Babcock and Mitchell have said, in a subtle but clear manner, that Carter will not be coddled.

"I think he'd lose respect for me if I tried to cater things to him. I'm going to treat all these guys the same," said Mitchell, who called Carter "a team player."

Mitchell showed up for a news conference yesterday brandishing a miniature hockey stick, jokingly threatening to use it on the miserable scribes if they got out of hand. That's the kind of coaching style he plans to embrace -- on one hand a benevolent teacher, on the other a guy who will not coddle.

Mitchell said some of the guys working out at the ACC already have complained about the constant wind sprints.

"The only way I know to get into shape is to run," he said. "You can ride all the stationary bikes, the stair master ... I'm great on the stationary bike. I'm Lance Armstrong on the stationary bike. But put me out there running the court, I'm done. Those things are tools to use when you can't run."


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