Fans mostly over Vince

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

We'd like to report that there was another emotional, even thunderous, negative fan reaction to another Vince Carter showing at the Air Canada Centre yesterday.

But few basketball fans -- the ACC was far below capacity -- bothered to show up for a 119-100 pre-season Raptors win over the New Jersey Nets, Carter's team. Many who did booed him lustily, but the relative lack of interest in a Sunday afternoon pre-season game, plus the fact it has been close to two years since Carter's departure via trade, could be a sign Toronto finally is getting over it.

Not that any of this matters to Carter, at least publicly.

"I can't live my life worrying about (booing)," he said, then laughed. "(But) I thought (the fans) were pretty quiet."

Carter spent a fair chunk of his 22 minutes of court time kibitzing with the only on-court opponent in the game left over from his time here -- Morris Peterson -- while yelling over to the other former teammate, injured Chris Bosh (heel), about Bosh's new hairstyle.

Seeing new Raptor Jorge Garbajosa sporting his former No. 15 did set Carter back a little. "That was weird," he said.

The Nets are a team that last season relied too heavily on its trio of perimeter talent -- Carter, forward Richard Jefferson and point guard Jason Kidd. Nets coach Lawrence Frank said yesterday the team has high hopes for some of its rookies -- forward/centre Josh Boone and point guard Marcus Williams being two key cogs -- to help bolster a perceived weak bench, although Jefferson took exception to that. "You know what? We win 50 games. We have a 14-game winning streak. We win the division, yet people still find ways to criticize. I don't think the bench guys got the credit they deserved last season."

Carter had been out with bruised ribs and made his pre-season debut yesterday, finishing 5-for-15 from the field for 10 points after a sluggish start.

His contract status remains an off-court distraction. Carter, set to make $16 million US this season, can opt out of his Nets deal after the year is up. Rumours of Orlando as a future destination won't go away, although he has denied that publicly. Talks about a new deal with the Nets are also off until the timing is right, he said, and a question about a reported pending divorce from wife Ellen brought a speedy end to interview proceedings yesterday.

All that aside, one wonders what Carter thinks privately when he comes back to visit now. All that remains is an ownership stake in a downtown nightclub.

"He has moved on in terms of (the basketball) aspect," Kidd said.

Said Carter, "That's the way the NBA is. Guys move all the time."


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