Fans not so friendly

Mike Koreen and STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Dealing with a few boobirds shouldn't be a huge problem for a pro athlete. Just ask New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank.

"Heck, we've got two kids from old Yugoslavia (Nenad Krstic of Serbia-Montenegro and Zoran Planinic of Croatia), the Croatians and Serbs, they're used to bottles being thrown," Frank said last night prior to Nets star Vince Carter's return to Toronto.

Frank is familiar with unfriendly welcomes for his players. He was an assistant coach in Vancouver when Steve Francis, who refused to sign with the Grizzlies after they drafted him, made his first visit to the city in 1999. A tomato splattered on the court that night and one fan threw a tennis ball.

"We're all in it together," Frank said. "Different guys in the locker room have been through similar-type things where you go back to your home and sometimes it's not the friendliest of all environments."

Frank gave Carter the ultimate compliment.

"If Vince Carter was in Vancouver, there (still) would probably be basketball in Vancouver," Frank said.

FOCUS ON GAME

Because his Nets are in a playoff race, Carter promised he wouldn't allow the fans to negatively affect him last night.

"If I let that get to me, I'll be disappointing my team (because of) what we're playing for," he said. "I can say this. If we were playing for nothing, if it was just two teams out here playing to get the season over with, it could possibly be a different situation."

SAM AT HIS BEST

Coach Sam Mitchell was asked pre-game yesterday if he had any negative experiences with Maple Leafs fans this year, hearkening back a quote he gave a couple of months ago when a street person screamed at him that the Leafs ruled Toronto, not the Raptors.

As Mitchell went on about how fans in Toronto have been very supportive, one reporter interjected

"Patch it up with that homeless guy?" he asked.

"Yes, since you've cleaned yourself up," Mitchell replied, to a chorus of laughter.


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