Only Vince knows answer to this one

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

Vince Carter has been called a lot of things. Maddening. Talented. Enigmatic. Gifted. Infuriating. Passive.

But can we add the word "saboteur" to that list?

A story in the Tacoma News Tribune yesterday said three members of the Seattle SuperSonics claimed Vince Carter intentionally tipped off the Sonics bench to a Raptors in-bounds play late in a game between the two clubs last month.

"I don't believe it," Raptors guard Jalen Rose said.

Carter, of course, was traded from Toronto to the New Jersey Nets on Friday -- a few days after Raptors general manager Rob Babcock was contacted by a Seattle reporter about the allegation. Babcock said yesterday the accusation against Carter did not spur the trade in any way.

Now, this corner always has considered Carter to be more dumb than evil. Yes, the game in question occurred after Toronto crowds had started to boo Carter vociferously, and he may have been in a resentful mood. But even so, is Carter -- who asked to be traded before the season began -- capable of such chicanery?

ALMOST ANIMATED

"I don't think so. I don't know," Raptors guard Morris Peterson said. "I don't think he would do that, intentionally."

The soft-spoken Peterson became almost animated as he continued to ponder the possibility.

"(Carter) could have said that just to confuse someone," Peterson said. "You never know. I don't like to get caught up in all that soap-opera stuff.

"If it happened, it would not sit well with me at all, but I hope it didn't."

Generally speaking, that last sentence summed up the reaction in Raptorland yesterday.

In this case, sabotage is impossible to prove, anyway. Carter was not in attendance as his new team, the Nets, lost 110-99 to the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre yesterday. But even if he had been there, we doubt he would have said: "Yup, that's true. I did it, just like the Kevin Costner character in Bull Durham."

According to the News Tribune, the alleged crime occurred with 29 seconds remaining in a game that the visiting Sonics were leading 97-90. After a timeout, Carter lined up along the edge of the key and was facing the Seattle bench. Before the play began, Carter allegedly looked at the Seattle bench and said: "It's a flare. It's a flare." The Raptors then ran a flare play for Carter.

"I wasn't (near Carter at the time), so I don't believe it happened," Rose said. "If I had to bet if it happened or not, I'll bet that it didn't. Plus, we played them (a month) ago. Why is it coming out now?

"And after all, the play is for him. Why would he do that?"

It might have been bravado, as in: "This play is for me and you can't stop it."

It might have been to throw off an opponent. His words might have been meant for a confused teammate's ear.

Who knows? We can't get inside Carter's head. It's a grey area -- the issue, not Carter's head.

But there is no grey area as far as the Seattle players are concerned. They are convinced Carter maliciously revealed a play.

"I don't know what I'm supposed to say," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said yesterday. "If it happened, then hey, there's nothing I can do about it now. Vince is in New Jersey. There's no way I can respond to that. It does me no good to respond to it.

"I'm not going to take five minutes of my time, which is too valuable, to go back and watch (the tape). If it happened, it's unfortunate. I'm going to go on the premise that it didn't happen."

Carter is gone now. He's not Toronto's problem any more.

But as yesterday proved, the Raptors have not yet ripped themselves free of all the controversy that seemingly pops up with the mere mention of his name.

Vince Carter has to look himself in the mirror every morning. We hope there is honesty in those eyes, and not shame.


Videos

Photos