Feel free to give Carter his just boos

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Any day now the magic will end, reality will set in, and Vince Carter will go back to being Vince Carter again.

In other words, a quitter.

If you quit once -- and he did more than that -- he will quit again.

If you take the easy way out -- and when didn't he do that? -- he will do that again.

If you abdicate responsibility and blame others for your own misfortune, he will be irresponsible again.

If you desert your team, lack leadership, try to be influential and pull it off only to the benefit of yourself, he will make those same mistakes over and over.

Hold a mirror to Vince Carter and what you somehow witness is an old axiom come true: Sport doesn't build character, it reveals it. And this season, just like every season with Carter, has been most revealing.

If there is anger out there in basketball land -- as small and insignificant a basketball land as we happen to be -- then feel free to direct it toward Carter tomorrow night at the Air Canada Centre. Feel free to bring signs, boo loudly, to scorn an athlete you once had on a pedestal.

Feel free -- because in this case -- it's the right way to proceed within the bounds of good behaviour. In this case, the Toronto Raptors, the Toronto fans, the Toronto players, were all cheated by Carter, cheated and deceived by a star baby who only wanted things his way and when they didn't go his way he deserted his teammates and blamed the front office and became the most disenfranchise franchise player in sports.

He managed, over time, to do what all babies do: He took his ball and went home.

For all that was done for Carter, nothing revealed more about his character than that. He had the key to this city and didn't know what to do with it. He could have been the face of basketball in a country still trying to warm up to the game, but was unwilling to push himself. All he could manage to think about was: How does this affect me?

And does my mother have a place to park?

Instead of building, he tore down. He did it systematically. He played a huge role in the on-going demise of the Raptors and the only mistake he didn't make in this fiasco was to make a trade that brought nothing of value in return for King Sulk.

Of all that went wrong between Carter and this city, nothing was more despicable then how he placed his own personal goals ahead of that of the franchise. It was obvious last August, when he had a charity game to sell, and there was money to be raised for his foundation, and he didn't have the onions -- to use the Chuck Swirsky term -- to be forthright and tell the city, or the team, that he definitively wanted out.

Instead, he ran his game, sold his tickets, did what was good for Vince and then he watched as Tracy McGrady was traded and Steve Francis was traded and Shaquille O'Neal was traded. After all the basketball movement had taken place, then he determined he wouldn't play here anymore, when there were no more deals to be made: And he proved it his final deplorable 20 games as a Raptor when he went through the motions and later didn't deny it.

The great irony being that Sam Mitchell, the new coach, put together a team that was all offence and no defence. Just the way Vince likes it. Except he played neither as he slithered his way out of town.

By then, he had hindered his own value in a deal, hurt the Raptors at the draft table (they passed on Andre Iguodala to select Jimmy Hoffa): He did his own Isiah Thomas tapdance on a grave. If I can't be a part of it, I'm going to destroy it.

Not remembering that he pushed for Antonio Davis and Alvin Williams and Jerome Williams to be re-signed. He pushed hard for the signing of Hakeem Olajuwon. He pushed for the the signing of Milt Palacio.

The only thing worse than Carter's play in his final Toronto games was his general managing skills.

So please, Welcome Back Carter tomorrow night with acrimony and indignation as he is back being a scoring machine. For now.

If anything the booing may be cathartic. And in a season such as this, with so little gone right, there has to be something still to make noise about.


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