Different kind of court

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Convicted felon William (Tank) Black is trying to dip into former client Vince Carter's pockets.

The Raptors' Carter will miss at least the next two pre-season games because he is being sued by Black, his first agent, for breach of contract.

Legal proceedings are scheduled to start today in Columbia, S.C., as Black, who still is serving a prison term, seeks $9 million US in damages from Carter, as well as $5 million in punitive damages. As is common in these proceedings, Carter apparently has counter-sued, according to sources.

Carter's presence is required this week, since he likely will have to testify before a jury.

"The timing of this is unfortunate, because I want to be with my team, preparing for the season," Carter said through one of his representatives. "But it's something I don't have control over.

'TAKE CARE OF IT'

"This has been an issue that has been hanging over my head for a number of years and I'm going to take care of it once and for all this week."

Black was Carter's original agent when Carter declared himself eligible for the NBA draft in 1998. Carter's decision to sign with Black went against the grain, since all of Black's other clients were in the NFL and Black had no previous experience with pro basketball players.

Carter and Black parted company after Black ran into a series of legal problems. Carter signed with the International Management Group in 2000, and he remains with that company.

On May 8, 2002, Black was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing a total of at least $12 million US from his various clients. While the biggest financial victims were Black's NFL clients, such as Fred Taylor of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Ike Hilliard of the New York Giants, sources indicated at the time that Carter lost at least several hundred thousand dollars.

The five-year sentence Black received represented the maximum term. His co-defendant, Linda Wilson, also was sentenced to five years. Black's sentence was made consecutive to a seven-year sentence he already was serving for laundering $1.1 million on behalf of an illegal drug ring in Michigan.

The Raptors obviously don't know how long these legal proceedings will take but they are hopeful Carter will be back in time for the club's final pre-season game, Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors will play here in Denver against the Nuggets tonight and in Portland against the Trail Blazers tomorrow night.

"I would like to have Vince with us this week, but these are circumstances that can't be avoided," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said yesterday in Denver, where the team practised. "We're still going to have four or five days of practice after the pre-season is over to (focus) in on what we're doing (before the regular-season opener on Nov. 3).


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