Reason to feel proud

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

This morning Raptors fans are seeing things they rarely see, and sniffing things they rarely sniff.

They actually are holding their heads high.

In your face, Vince Carter.

A little harsh?

Sure, but how much have Raptors fans had to celebrate in recent weeks and months, let alone in recent years?

"Happy, healthy, opportunity," is how Carter has explained his resurgence since the Raptors granted his trade demand and dealt him to New Jersey in December.

But you probably can cross "happy" off that list for the moment, since it was the Raptors who beat Carter's Nets 100-82 last night in East Rutherford, N.J., in the first game between the clubs since the deal.

Then again, should "happy" be nixed?

When Carter emerged from the showers in the Nets' locker room after the game, he was laughing at something someone had said.

Vince is a nice guy, an even-tempered guy. But that's exactly the attitude and demeanour that used to drive Raptors fans insane.

"It's disappointing," said Carter, who scored a team-high 22 points but shot an ugly 8-for-25 from the field. "Just the effort ... uh, not the effort, just the way we played. It looked okay early and got worse from there."

It would not be exaggerating to say last night was the sweetest night for the Raptors since they beat the New York Knicks in the playoffs in 2001.

Carter had repeatedly said that last night was not a big deal to him, but he looked like he was forcing the issue. His moves were acrobatic enough, but on only a couple of occasions did they result in buckets.

During a post-game interview, Nets point guard Jason Kidd tiptoed around the notion that some New Jersey players seemed to be overly concerned with stats.

Trouble in paradise?

The best player on the court was the Raptors' Jalen Rose. His gutsy 30-point effort should make the Raptors think twice about trading him prior to the deadline tomorrow.

Carter described facing his former team as "weird."

"Jalen was shooting a free-throw and I almost gave him a high-five," Carter said. "I had to catch myself. I got caught up talking to Mo (Morris Peterson) at the free-throw line."

For all of Carter's stellar play since the trade, one thing he isn't doing is packing them in at Continental Airlines Arena. The thousands of empty seats last night proved that not even the magic of Vince Carter can change New Jersey from being New Jersey.

The Raptors players don't seem to be holding any personal grudges against Carter -- at least none they are willing to verbalize. Things turned nasty on one occasion, though.

After a hard foul on Carter by Raptors rookie Rafael Araujo in the third quarter, Carter turned and took an aggressive step toward Araujo. A Nets teammate grabbed Carter, but had he not been rescued, it would have been pretty funny to see what Carter planned to do with the 6-foot-11, 280-pound Brazilian beast.

Prior to last night, the Raptors had a deplorable history in these types of showdown games.

LOSSES, ALL

Last season, the Raptors lost the first game against Chicago after trading Antonio Davis, as well as the first game against former coach Lenny Wilkens (who was fired by New York earlier this season). The Raptors lost the first time they faced the departed Tracy McGrady, the departed Marcus Camby and the departed Damon Stoudamire.

It was quite a trend.

But they didn't lose last night.

As you enjoy Carter's come-uppance today, here is a good theoretical question for Raptors fans everywhere.

Yes, the Carter trade still looks horrible on the whole. One game does not erase that.

But lest we forget, there were plenty of reasons to get rid of Carter, too, some of which were on display last night.

Think hard about it.

If given the chance, right here and right now, would you reverse the deal and take Vince Carter back?


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