In a recent blog post on his web-site, Vince Carter pens a rather sentimental piece about running a basketball camp in New Jersey despite being traded to the Orlando Magic earlier this summer. In the post, Vince says he’s still “a bit sad, surprised, and excited” about his new location before heaping praise on the Nets organization and its current batch of players, who he still considers friends and wants to see succeed. It was a classy post from a guy who seemed to really enjoy his time in New Jersey.
I wish I could say the feeling was mutual. As a Nets fan, I was never able to fully embrace Vince Carter ever since he was acquired in 2004. I always saw him as a player who would perennially underachieve given his talent. Someone who could get you to the playoffs, but disappear in the critical junctures of a game. Someone who filled a stat sheet. The Alex Rodriguez of basketball for those of you who follow baseball (though I tend to think some of the criticism A-Rod gets about his play on the field is unwarranted). I didn’t even need to read about how Carter didn’t give his all towards the end of his tenure in Toronto, despite the fact that he was heralded as a conquering hero in Raptor-land in the early 2000s. I think that was plainly obvious to anyone watching the 2003-04 version of Vince Carter, compared with the 1999-2000 Vince Carter.
Then there’s the fact that I always saw Vince as a sort of “consolation prize” from Bruce Ratner. He cheaped out by not bringing back Kenyon Martin and cutting ties with Kerry Kittles (which given their health issues were actually very sound basketball moves), but he was okay with Rod Thorn dumping a bunch of spare parts and a surly Alonzo Mourning (that’s a whole other rant from me), for a guy that I never saw as a proper fit for the fast breaking Jason Kidd-era Nets.
He heaved up too many jump shots. Tried too hard to create his own shot. Was not aggressive enough around the rim. Was mediocre on the defensive end. And despite being the focal point offensively of the “Big Three,” he never led the Nets to anything beyond the second round of the playoffs. Before he came to the Nets, the team was defined as not having one true offensive star, and they seemed to thrive in that situation. Vince changed all that. I thought for the worst.
I’m not saying my perception of VC is fair or rational. I don’t think I could ever accuse him of dogging it while in Nets uniform. He suited up as often as I could have expected him to. He was outstanding during the 2006 playoffs when I thought the Nets had the best shot of making it back to the finals before running into a charmed Miami Heat team. Then after the Nets traded away Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson before last season, Vince seemed to embrace his role of mentor and leader.
That doesn’t change the fact that I was never happy when the Nets resigned him in 2007. I wanted Richard Jefferson to be the focal point of the offense. I felt he would be a better sidekick to Jason Kidd. Since the day he resigned I was trying to figure out the best way to unload Vince. I was furious when Thorn allegedly turned down a deal to dump VC to the Knicks two trade deadlines ago. When the news finally broke this past June that the Vince Carter era was finally over, I was relieved. The fact that we got back a guy like Courtney Lee, who seems to have a good amount of potential was all the better.
I guess I would feel better about myself if Vince wasn’t staying so positive about things. No veiled shots about ownership cutting payroll. No digs at the coach. Nothing. No talk about preferring Orlando to the swamps of Jersey.
At the home opener in a few months, I’m pretty confidant that VC will get a loud, positive ovation from the fans when he’s introduced. I’m sure the YES team will have interviews and footage of him before and after the game. Vince is going to be all smiles. But I just can’t bring myself to join the majority here. I’m looking forward to the day that Vince Carter becomes merely a blip in Nets history. I don’t want that to come across as mean-spirited, but this isn’t Dr. J. or Jason Kidd here. Vince Carter was a good player who happened to wear a Nets jersey for a few years. There’s nothing to get sentimental about.