NBA: Carter likes Orlando’s chances
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. ó Vince Carter isn’t looking to replace Dwight Howard as the face of the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic.
Not even close. The recently acquired Carter just wants to fit with his new team and get the prize that has eluded him for a decade in the NBA ó a championship ring.
“I think we have a wonderful team,” Carter said of the Magic during a break at his basketball camp. “On paper it’s pretty darn good. It’s the preparation and work we put in, and not becoming complacent.”
Carter admitted on Wednesday that he was surprised by the June trade that sent him and forward Ryan Anderson from the New Jersey Nets to the Magic for center Tony Battie and guards Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston.
However, the thought of playing near his home and sharing the court with Howard, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson has rekindled the championship hopes that disappeared in New Jersey over the past two years with the trades that shipped Jason Kidd to Dallas and Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee.
The acquisition of Carter gives the Magic a proven go-to player who has averaged 23.5 points in his 10 NBA seasons. He is also a versatile scorer who can prevent opponents from focusing all their defensive efforts on stopping Howard’s inside game.
The trade also gives Orlando, which lost to the Lakers in the NBA Finals in five games, an immediate replacement for Hedo Turkoglu, who was shipped to Toronto in a sign-and-trade deal.
The one thing Carter isn’t looking to do is to be the focal point of the Magic, something that he has been throughout his career in Toronto and New Jersey.
“If you think about it, I never really said ‘This is my team,”‘ Carter said of his four-plus seasons in New Jersey. “I said, ‘I’m going to help this team win.’ When I first got here, it was Jason’s team. I just want to help make (Orlando) better. He (Howard) can be the face all he wants. My concern is more so just getting wins. I kind of leave that for people to say or debate on. I think for me, it’s ‘Can Vince come in and do his part for the Orlando Magic?’ That’s more so my goal.”
Carter conducted his camp at the Nets’ training facility on Wednesday. He had committed to the youth camp before the trade and the Nets allowed him to hold it.
But Carter enjoyed being back and seeing old friends. He talked to coach Lawrence Frank, Nets president Rod Thorn and a couple of former teammates.
The only regret he had was not finishing the job he started, which was to get the Nets a title.
“I mean, I worked my butt off to gain the trust of each and every player here and every staff member and really to instill the mentality and belief that we could win,” Carter said. “I don’t think we were expected to win as many games as we did. It was just creating a mentality and making it a habit.”
Carter was the player the Nets counted on for scoring and leadership in recent years, and he said now it will probably fall to All-Star guard Devin Harris to fulfill the role.
“I mean, Devin can do it,” Carter said. “He has seen it done and he’s been around. It’s just if he wants it. He has definitely established himself in the NBA as a player and that’s the next level for him.”
Carter spoke highly of the players the Nets acquired from Orlando, saying Lee was unbelievable, Battie was a proven veteran who has been to the championship round and that Alston is a great leader.
For the Nets to be successful next season, he said it will take a team effort in a year where not much is expected.
Carter did not know how the Nets would fare in the 2010 free agency market when LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade might all be available.
“It will be a great opportunity for somebody, maybe a guy who wants an opportunity to build a team around him and play with Devin,” Carter said. “You give them another guy or another stud, anything can happen. I think it’s possible. I really do.”
For now, all Carter is thinking about is the Magic, admitting he still feels weird.
“It’s hard to say Vince Carter, Orlando Magic right now,” he said. “It won’t be once we start doing things as a team.”