It's still the same old, boring Vince

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Whatever.

It's Vince Carter's favourite word.

It can mean "I accept." It can mean "I don't care." With Vince it means neither. With Vince Carter it means "I want you to think I don't care."

Carter met the media in Charlotte for the first time yesterday as a newly-minted New Jersey Net.

In a wide ranging scrum, he dropped hints, feinted toward hurt, and in the end, professed supreme indifference to whatever anyone thought or wrote about him.

Mark it down. Vince Carter is the first person in the history of our species completely indifferent to what anyone says or thinks about him. No feelings whatsoever. He's half man, half-android.

Start with the story that Carter tipped off a play, Nov. 19, in the dying moments of a loss to Seattle.

Carter, who won't play until tomorrow at the earliest, said he didn't want to talk about the story. "I don't know what it's all about. It's ridiculous. It's stupid."

Now that he has been traded, Carter insisted that he would have been fine if circumstances had dictated he stay in Toronto.

"If they made it public or said to me or whatever ... if they made it public that they weren't going to do anything with a trade, fine. I was prepared for that and I was prepared to move on."

So, there were no hard feelings. Well, actually, there were some -- not that they bothered him -- but the club denying his mother Michelle her parking spot rankled, although, miraculously, without touching him personally.

"It (the hassles) had nothing to do with basketball. They asked me what do you want? Well, we want my mother to get to the game with no hassle. We want my family to be able to do the same. It was a big deal.

"Whatever."

Carter said he wasn't trying to show anyone anything. Kind of.

"No I have nothing to prove. I'm not coming in here trying to disrupt what's going on. I'll prove it just by going out here and playing hard.

"I'm going to make a lot of people eat their words when it's time. Don't be my friend later. Keep it like it is. If you hate me now, hate me later. I don't mind. My job is to go out there and play and bring another aspect to New Jersey Nets basketball."

Vince says the criticism doesn't bother him. Really.

"It doesn't matter. Who cares. Some people can handle it and some can't. Some people run away from it. But you know what I'm still standing. I'm right here."

Here, of course, is in Charlotte, because he asked to be traded in large part because he couldn't sustain the lie that he didn't care about anything anymore. Not that he'd admit that. Well, he could, because he doesn't care what you'd think about that. Whatever.

Carter said he has been left remarkably unaltered by seven seasons of prodigious ups and downs.

"You learn just like anybody as you go, but mentally, I am the same person," he said.

Yes, I believe that to be true.

He was a marvelous player unimpeded by gravity but grounded by his own human frailty, the physical and the emotional kind.

He really isn't a bad guy, just a very bad liar.

"If you hate me now, hate me later. I don't mind," Vince Carter said.

A 10-year-old could see the lie in that. At least now we can total the residue of Vincent Lamaar Carter on our sporting consciousness.

It is, as follows:

Some unforgettable highlight reel dunks. A feeling of basketball ascendancy, long faded.

A life lesson we can carry to the grave: The moment you try to convince people you're too cool to care is the moment they start to stop caring for you.


Photos