End of the Carter era is a relief

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Today is a day for relief, not pride. Vince Carter, the most famous player in Raptors history, was traded yesterday to the New Jersey Nets for Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, Alonzo Mourning and two first-round draft picks.

Few tears will be shed for Carter in Toronto, where his star has fallen.

People will pine for the dunks, but they've been doing that for three years already.

Still, Rob Babcock's first major trade as general manager of the Raptors -- heck, it might be the biggest deal Babcock ever makes in his life -- did not bring back a star.

It's a bad deal for the Raptors if you consider the scope of Carter's career, but a grudgingly understandable deal if you consider the current state of his career.

Raptors fans will want to have it both ways.

Many have done nothing but criticize Carter and lament the deficiencies in his game and his character for the past several seasons. But now that he has been traded, those same people will cry, "Why didn't Babcock get more?"

Could Babcock have done better?

The easy answer is no, because he didn't.

"There's no question (Carter's) stock is not as high now as it was a couple of years ago," Babcock said.

In adding two first-round draft picks, Babcock bought himself time. If the trade looks horrible over the next few weeks or over the next year, with a re-energized Carter clicking with Jason Kidd, the Raptors always can say that everyone should wait to see how the draft picks pan out.

The New York Knicks, who had been Carter's most persistent suitor (at least publicly), were said to be shocked the Raptors settled for so little. But value is in the eye of the beholder, as Babcock said yesterday.

The Knicks, after all, weren't exactly offering a stable of all-stars.

"I'd prefer to get five all-stars out of this trade, but I had some guidelines going in," Babcock said. "No. 1 was draft picks, and being able to get two was really good. No. 2 was some (increased) financial flexibility. No. 3 was to add the type of character guys who fit into our philosophy.

The youth comes with the draft picks.

"Does this drop our talent level? Of course. But I think Toronto fans appreciate teamwork, everybody pulling together and leaving 100% on the court every night."

The clear implication is that "teamwork" has not been in evidence with any regularity lately.

This obviously could lead to other moves. Babcock failed to package Jalen Rose's huge contract with Carter, so the team still has that hanging over its head.

Mourning wants to play for a contender, if he plays at all, so there will be some opportunities there, too.

But the biggest deal is done. The franchise has been altered.

Isn't it kind of anticlimactic?

Ultimately, the Raptors and Carter were doomed to fail as a partnership because they are too much alike.

As an organization, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Ltd., wants the Raptors to win. As long as it's not too hard. As long as they don't have to pay for a marquee coach or GM. As long as they can send the basketball team on multiple multi-game road trips to accommodate Disney on Ice, or Avril Lavigne concerts, or whatever.

Carter wants to win, too. As long as it's not too hard. As long as he doesn't have to spend too much time in the weight room. As long as it doesn't interrupt his summers.

The Raptors and Carter were left to point fingers at each other, both sides saying, "You didn't do enough."

The Raptors failed Carter by not surrounding him with a good team for most of his tenure. Carter failed the Raptors by not being the type of player and leader that his status and salary demanded.

"Where it went wrong? I don't know," Carter told The Associated Press last night.

Regardless, he's gone.

There is relief that it's over.

But neither the Raptors nor Carter should be proud that it came to this.


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