When Vince speaks, don't listen

BILL HARRIS, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

Vince Carter is gone, folks, and we have to get over him. We have to quit hanging on his every word.

Carter, apparently, is not bright enough to shut up. So if the Raptors and their fans ever are going to leave Carter's emotional baggage behind, selective hearing will have to be developed.

CABLE INTERVIEW

In an interview shown Thursday night on U.S. cable network TNT, television analyst and former college coach John Thompson asked Carter if he pushed himself as hard as he should have while he was a Raptor.

"In years past, no," said Carter, who was traded to the New Jersey Nets from the Raptors last month. "I was fortunate to have the talent ... you get spoiled when you're able to do a lot of things. You see that you don't have to work at it.

"Now, with all the injuries, I have to work harder. I'm a little hungrier. Getting a fresh start has made me want to attack the basket."

As usual, there was something of an overreaction to Carter's comments in Toronto sports circles yesterday. But whether you view it as a big deal or a small deal, it still was a pretty stupid thing for Carter to say.

You grudgingly can understand the first part, about how "in years past," when Carter was younger, he relied more on natural talent than hard work. He hardly is the first athlete to go down that road.

But in our eyes, the most damning bit had to do with how "getting a fresh start" has made Carter want to attack the basket aggressively again. In other words, before his fresh start, the only thing that stopped him from attacking the basket was the fact that he didn't feel like it.

Raptors guard Rafer Alston took particular offence to Carter's words, claiming the club could have a much better record now had Carter been trying his hardest. In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out that Carter and Alston generally did not get along.

For anyone who saw Carter play over the past two years, it is no great revelation that he was not pushing himself to his physical and emotional limits.

We're not saying it was right, or proper, or admirable, but it was obvious.

Carter had grown frustrated with the Raptors, and the Raptors had grown frustrated with him.

It would have been nice had Carter possessed the maturity to understand he was being paid handsomely to perform. Alas, few of us always do what we're supposed to do.

But among both the Vince apologists and the Vince-haters yesterday, the general reaction seemed to be: "Why on earth would Vince say that?"

NOT VERY SMART

The answer, of course, is that Vince is not very smart when it comes to his image or any type of public relations.

Most of the time, he just doesn't understand how his actions or his words are impacting the manner in which people perceive him. And on those rare occasions when he does understand, he has been raised not to care.

All that matters is his inner circle. Everyone else just wants something from him anyway, or wants him to fail, so to hell with them, right?

It probably never even remotely dawned on Vince that if he admitted he had been re-energized in New Jersey and that he didn't give it his all in Toronto, some people would focus on that last part and be very upset.

"Those are questions you need to ask Vince -- they're not questions for me," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said last night. "I didn't play. I didn't make those comments.

"I'd like to think Vince gave his all to the Toronto Raptors, because the Toronto Raptors surely gave their all to Vince."

Well ... that's debatable, too.

Either way, when Vince Carter talks, we still listen.

Only when Carter no longer angers us will we be completely free of him.


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