Vince going all to Blazers?

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

All it took was a four-game losing streak by the Raptors and some awkward play from Vince Carter to get the rumour mill running loudly again.

Carter, who demanded a trade before the season began, yesterday was at the heart of a serious multi-player rumour involving the Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers.

According to sources, the two teams have discussed several possible combinations for a blockbuster swap that would see Carter head west, possibly with Jalen Rose and maybe even a couple of other players.

Coming back would be Shareef Abdur-Rahim, along with a couple of teammates that might include Nick Van Exel, Derek Anderson and Vladimir Stepania.

The most talked-about versions of the deal were Carter and Rose for Abdur-Rahim and either Van Exel or Anderson; and Carter, Rose and possibly another player for Abdur-Rahim, Anderson and Vladimir Stepania. Depending upon the ballast, a variety of similar scenarios could be made to fall within the salary-matching guidelines that are crucial to any NBA transaction.

INTO THE NIGHT

However, if things bog down, the most simple deal to make would be Carter for Abdur-Rahim.

According to sources, the machinations were continuing late last night, with the Blazers essentially waiting for the Raptors to decide if they want to proceed.

Meanwhile, the Blazers obviously quietly were looking for some sort of assurance from Carter that he won't balk at the deal, since his representatives indicated in the past that he is not keen on a move to the Western Conference.

However, there's a good chance Carter will be willing to go west this time, if it comes down to it.

New Raptors coach Sam Mitchell has not been shy about benching Carter at crucial junctures. The team isn't running many plays for him and he largely has been ineffective at the defensive end.

"I don't make comments on trade talks," said Raptors general manager Rob Babcock, adopting the same mantra as his predecessor, Glen Grunwald. "You'll have to figure this one out for yourself."

That certainly falls far short of confirmation, but Babcock also did nothing to throw cold water on the rumour, which first was reported by a Portland radio station. Blazers GM John Nash also declined to comment on specifics.

As word of the rumour spread around the league, there also were rumblings that some other teams might be interested in at least talking to the Raptors about Carter before Toronto decides to ship him elsewhere.

Looking at the potential swap simply as a talent-for-talent endeavour, it might appear the Raptors would be coming out on the short end. However, the advantage of acquiring Abdur-Rahim and Anderson would be that both players are in the final years of their contracts, which would aid the Raptors' salary-cap situation next summer.

Keep in mind, however, the Raptors currently are well over the cap, and there aren't scheduled to be many marquee free agents in 2005.

If the Raptors made the deal, they would have to sell it to their fans that they're going to rebuild around Chris Bosh, who many believe is a franchise player-in-waiting.

From the Blazers' perspective, they don't want to keep Abdur-Rahim beyond this season, but they don't necessarily want to lose him for nothing, either. What's more, the Blazers have been struggling a little at the gate, and Carter might provide a bump in that regard, at least in the short term.


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