Monday , Dec , 20 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Points in the Paint

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – New Jersey has added five-time All-Star
Vince Carter to its roster. The Nets traded center Alonzo Mourning, forward
Eric Williams, center/forward Aaron Williams and two conditional first-round
draft picks to the Toronto Raptors for Carter.

“We are very excited to add a player of Vince’s caliber to the Nets roster,”
said New Jersey president Rod Thorn. “He is a proven All-Star who brings a
unique dynamic to any team of which he is a member. Vince’s ability to run the
floor fits in very well with our desired style of play, and his ability to
create his own shot will elevate the productivity of our halfcourt offense.”

Acquiring Carter may keep New Jersey’s All-Star point guard Jason Kidd from
demanding to be traded. The trade with Toronto seems to be aimed at just that.
However, it is not a foregone conclusion that the acquisition of Carter will
make Kidd want to stay in New Jersey.

The 27-year-old Carter, who is currently on the injured list with a strained
left Achilles, is not the same player he was earlier in his career. He is
still athletic and exciting, but he seems to have lost a step.

Carter, who revealed in the offseason that he would be happier if he was
playing somewhere other than Toronto, had averaged just 15.9 points in 20
games for the Raptors this season. In 2003-04, Carter did average 22.5
points and 4.8 rebounds in 73 contests for a bad Toronto team.

The Nets are getting a player who is still a big name, but may have seen his
best days on the court pass him by. Sure, Carter can put down some thunderous
dunks that will bring the crowd to its feet, but does he make New Jersey a
better team?

Originally a first-round draft choice (fifth overall) by the Golden State
Warriors at the 1998 NBA Draft, Carter, who played his college ball at North
Carolina, was traded by the Warriors with cash to the Raptors for the draft
rights to forward Antawn Jamison, who is currently with the Washington
Wizards. The North Carolina product, who is playing in his seventh season,
averaged a career-high 27.6 points in 75 games for Toronto in the 2000-01
season. He missed 22 games in the 2002-03 campaign and 39 in 2002-03 because
of injuries.

New Jersey forward Richard Jefferson, who signed a multi-year, lucrative
contract with the Nets before the season, plays a lot like Carter, who had
been averaging a career-low 30 minutes per game for Toronto before the trade,
and also happens to play the same position as his new teammate. The 24-year-
old Jefferson is having the best season of his four-year career, as he leads
New Jersey in scoring (22.4 ppg), rebounding (7.9 rpg) and assists (4.2 apg)
after 23 games.

Carter and Jefferson both excel in an up-tempo style. They are both excellent
finishers on the fastbreak and will give Kidd some great options on the wing
when all three are on the court together. However, neither player is big
enough to play power forward, which means that one of the two will have to
play a lot of minutes at shooting guard.

Both Carter and Jefferson have a lot of positives to their games, but they are
not strong outside shooters. The Nets did not acquire Carter to have him and
Jefferson split time at small forward. New Jersey head coach Lawrence Frank
will have to figure out how to use Jefferson and Carter effectively at the
same time.

New Jersey’s opponents will not be threatened by the Nets’ outside game.
Instead, they will clog the paint and dare New Jersey to knock down the
outside shot. Yes, Carter and Jefferson will still be able to dunk over the
opposition, but that only makes the Nets more exciting not effective.

The 31-year-old Kidd wants to play for a winner. The Nets, who traded
All-star power forward Kenyon Martin to the Denver Nuggets in the offseason,
got a player with a big name in the NBA circles. But, they did not get the
type of player that was going to put them over the top. Martin fit in great
with Kidd and Jefferson, Carter will not.

The Nets miss Martin a lot more than they though they would. He did the dirty
work down low, was an intimidating presence on defense and also ran the court
very well. Along with Kidd and Jefferson, Martin gave the Nets a threesome
that could compete with the NBA’s elite every night.

Kidd will know that his new teammate does not give him any better of a
chance of winning an NBA championship than he had before. The Nets got a
player that will excite their fans, but it won’t be enough to keep Kidd from
eventually asking to be traded.