Carter says he 'was kidding'

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Vince Carter says he was joking when he declared he doesn't want to dunk anymore.

"I was just kidding," Carter said yesterday in Washington, D.C., where his Raptors played the Wizards.

"I dunked the game before (against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday). So, I'm not going to dunk anymore, but I just dunked in the (previous) two games? Oh, man. What's the big deal?"

On Monday in Toronto, Carter got the attention of the media when he declared, "I don't want to dunk anymore."

ATTEMPT AT HUMOUR

Reporters were silent for a moment. Then someone asked a followup question, which Carter answered seriously.

Now, we've been present in the past when Carter's attempts at humour have fallen flat, and also when he has tried to slip out of touchy situations by playing the humour card, so it's a bit of a grey area. But having dealt with Carter since the day he was drafted into the NBA, we think what he probably meant to say on Monday was, "I don't want to dunk flamboyantly anymore."

That's an approach which Carter, whose early reputation was built upon his explosive athleticism, has hinted at often during the past three years. But if Carter gets an opening -- as occurred more than once in the game last night -- he has nothing against the execution of a standard dunk, which, after all, is the highest-percentage play.

"I might do a layup on the fast break, (then turn and say), Told ya!' " said Carter, who expressed bewilderment that his comments on Monday had elicited such an emotional response in Toronto. "I don't know. I'm not going to dunk? Oh no! I was just kidding."

Kidding or not, Carter has been in the news a lot the past three months, most of the time in a controversial way.

First, he publicly demanded a trade. Then he was ordered by a legal court to pay his former agent, convicted felon William (Tank) Black, almost $5 million US.

Then Carter's play deteriorated and he began to find himself on the bench at crucial junctures late in games. Then came some strong trade rumours. Then he was booed vociferously by Raptors fans during the past two home games.

And finally, we have the scandal known as "dunk-gate."

Carter's brother-in-law, Antawn Jamison of the Wizards, said he can see in Carter's eyes that he isn't having any fun these days. Carter agreed, and said he has to get back to enjoying himself, since that's when he's at his best.

"I wasn't allowing myself to have fun, more than anything," Carter said. "I don't think it's because of any situation. I did get a little frustration from the whole Tank Black thing, for obvious reasons. But I put too much pressure on myself to be who I am, to do the things that I do. That's what I mean.

"That's one of the things I'm working on, as far as incorporating that in the game. Sometimes it's not position or form, it's just, have fun, play your game. And that has been the biggest adjustment I've done for myself."

Carter suggested it's hard to keep his guard up all the time when observers over-analyze his every facial expression.

"People say, 'Oh, he doesn't look like he cares,' and that's not the case," Carter said. "I'm not allowing myself to have fun, because I'm trying to be, quote, perfect. I don't know if that's (the right word) ... maybe so, to play the perfect game.

"I'm putting more pressure on myself than anybody, just to be the best I can be, or to be better than I've been. So, I'm going to relax and let all this other outside stuff just happen.

"Everybody thinks, 'Oh, textbook, you're supposed to be out there serious, no smiles, no this, no that.' I don't play that way. I enjoy being relaxed and free. I play basketball better when I don't worry, when I go out there and play with no worries."

At the very least, Raptors fans don't have to worry that they never will see Carter dunk again.

His between-the-legs, windmill, 360-degree-turnaround days may be close to over. But a dunk still is a dunk, and Vince Carter will not totally abstain.


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