Anything but 'another game'

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

The Raptors managed to brave the cold and freezing rain and make it to practice at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., last night.

But only Jalen Rose seems to be warming up to the idea that tonight's game against the Nets and ex-Raptor Vince Carter is something special.

The patented answer from head coach Sam Mitchell and the majority of Raptors is that tonight's match -- the first meeting between the two squads since the blockbuster Dec. 17 trade that sent Carter to New Jersey -- is just another game they have to win in order to make a run at a Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Rose, however, understands what the contest means for Raptors fans, who would like nothing better than for the struggling Raps to defeat the Nets and shut Carter down, if that's possible.

"Guys that tell you that they don't watch TV and they don't read the paper and they don't understand the magnitude of the game, those are cliche answers," he said.

"Everybody knows Vince is going to be psyched to play (tonight), everybody knows his jumper is going to have a couple of extra feet on it, his vertical is probably going to have a couple of extra inches on it," said Rose, adding that he, for one, definitely will use the fact that the Raptors will facing their former star teammate as extra motivation.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not given that this is the modern version of the NBA where friendships abound between opponents, there is virtually no animosity between the current Raptors and Carter, who pouted his way out of Toronto and admitted a short while back that he didn't always give it his all while donning a purple uniform.

SWAMPLANDS

Since arriving in the swamplands, Carter has turned the league on its ear, helping the 23-30 Nets play .500 ball while exploding offensively. In Jersey, Carter is averaging 26.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per night, way up from his numbers in Toronto earlier this season.

Mitchell refuses to consider tonight's game as anything extraordinary. What his 21-32 team needs, he said following yesterday's late practice, is a win and he believes the best way to ensure defeat is to concentrate on one opponent.

"You have to concentrate on Vince, but you also have to guard (point guard) Jason Kidd. He has only had four or five triple doubles in the past two to three weeks," Mitchell said.

"This is just another game for me, although I'm sure some of these guys who played with Vince for awhile may feel a little different," he added. "But we can't caught up in a circus atmosphere."

Many of the Raptors retain a certain fondness for the man who once ruled Toronto's sporting scene and have stayed in touch with him since the trade.


Videos

Photos