Getting Vince time?

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:11 AM ET

It's too sweet a prospect for long-suffering Raptors fans to allow themselves to think about.

But wouldn't it be something if the Raptors could knock Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets out of the playoff race?

The Raptors and the Nets will face each other at the Air Canada Centre a week from Friday. It will mark the first meeting in Toronto between the teams since Carter was traded to the Nets from the Raptors.

Okay, so the math probably won't work out that way. It appears as if the Nets, the Orlando Magic and the Philadelphia 76ers may go down to the last night of the season -- they all play on April 20 -- in pursuit of the eighth and final playoff position in the NBA Eastern Conference.

But at the very least, the Raptors could deal Carter and the Nets a serious body-blow. The Nets arguably have an easier schedule than the Magic or Sixers down the stretch, but it's safe to say the Toronto affair is among the games on which New Jersey is counting.

The Raptors posted a very satisfying win against the Nets in New Jersey back on Feb. 22. But it remains to be seen if the Raptors will have any fight left in them in a week and a half, their ability to fight amongst themselves notwithstanding.

The Raptors haven't given their fans much to cheer about this season, but making a stand against Carter and the Nets would be a nice going-away present heading into the summer. Dare to dream?

BOBCATS HAVE BITE

Only a game and a half separates the eighth-place Sixers (36-37), the ninth-place Magic (35-38) and the 10th-place Nets (35-39). But here's an interesting statistic: Orlando is only 1-3 this season against the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. The Nets are 4-0 against Charlotte, while the Sixers are 2-0 with a game to play.

If the Magic ends up missing the playoffs by a game or two, how much will it be kicking itself for letting its guard down against an expansion team not once, not twice, but three times?

SAM I AM

Speaking of Charlotte, there has been some buzz about the future of Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who could decide to step aside at the end of the season. Remember, Bickerstaff originally had hired Sam Mitchell to be the Bobcats' lead assistant -- and the man who would be groomed to take over -- before Mitchell was offered the job as head coach of the Raptors.

Mitchell appears to be quite safe in his position as the Raptors coach. But what if the Bobcats asked the Raptors for permission to speak with Mitchell this summer? Would that permission be granted? And if it were granted, would Mitchell have any interest in listening?

Another situation to watch is the one in Minnesota, where general manager Kevin McHale took over from the fired Flip Saunders at mid-season. Mitchell spent the bulk of his playing career with the Timberwolves.

There has been no solid indication that McHale has any interest in Mitchell, but McHale has been very clear on one matter. Asked recently if he had any interest in continuing as the coach next season, McHale looked at the questioner as if he were from Mars.

"Yeah, that's what I'm looking forward to doing," McHale said in a tone that was dripping with sarcasm.

CAROLINA KIDDING

Earlier this year we took a shot at a radio commercial in Charlotte that used a woefully bad Canadian hoser character to promote a Raptors-Bobcats game. But in the interest of fairness, the Bobcats did better last Friday.

A print ad in The Charlotte Observer featured a picture of Carter in Raptors garb. "Come see Vince Carter play for the Toronto Raptors," the ad declared.

An error? Not really. At the bottom of the ad, in small type, were the words, "April fools."


Videos

Photos