Jones on NBA: Carter, Raptors forever linked

Is it true that time heals all wounds?

For some Toronto Raptors fans, enough time may never pass to forgive or forget Vince Carter for what they perceive to be his actions toward the franchise. More on that a bit later, but there are some things that are undeniable.

Carter put the Raptors franchise on the map. His high-flying act took the NBA by storm and, thanks to Carter, the Raptors (albeit for a brief time period) were the talk of the NBA. “VC” was must-see TV. Networks changed tip-off times to make sure everyone got a chance to watch Carter perform. As my colleague Jack Armstrong has said: “It was like travelling with a rock band, the Beatles.”

Carter recently talked about his time in Toronto, which led to him reaffirming his affinity for the city. In short, Carter never wanted to leave Toronto.

After returning to Toronto following the Raptors’ two-game road trip to Oklahoma City and Dallas, I heard from afar and now witness up close how everyone is caught up with Carter’s recent discussions about T.O. Kevin Nielsen had this to say after Carter’s appearance on the Tim and Sid show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan, and you can read and listen to what former Raptor head coach Sam Mitchell and former general manager Rob Babcock had to say about the situation.

Sorry to rain on everyone’s parade but this is not a new story. It might be to those who scratch their heads about the reasons behind trading a potential generational player and were not around at the time everything happened. Remember, even Kobe Bryant said that if Carter and Tracy McGrady had stayed in Toronto, they might have had all the titles at the turn of the century.

Similar to what the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith said here in his Nov. 8 musing, and maybe it’s because I arrived with some of the furniture early on in the team’s tenure in the city, but we’re revisiting old information. Carter’s desire to stay in Toronto, even when the trade was about to be consummated, had everyone shaking their heads then, and again obviously right now.

I had the same type of conversation that Smith did with Vince in a hotel lobby in Indianapolis only hours before he was dealt. It was a Friday in December just after the noon hour and he was at the concierge desk holding a bunch of boxes and tagging them for delivery to make sure all landed at the proper destinations for Christmas Day. Team chemistry was lacking and questions were being asked. Vince said he would even be willing to come off the bench if that’s what it would take to right the ship. Then, two hours later, as I was packing my suitcase to head to call the game, a report on TV said Carter had been traded.

Carter was nowhere to be seen, he wasn’t in his room or at least wasn’t answering the phone and wouldn’t even speak to Toronto TV personalities when someone went back to try to talk to him during the game. But at the end of the night, Vince boarded the team plane and flew back with the team, sitting two seats behind me and chatting to Jalen Rose the entire time.

“We were laughing about it because I didn’t know what to do,” Carter reminisced Wednesday night before the Raptors took on the Mavericks in Dallas.

“I had never been traded before and he (Jalen) had, so I was asking him what to do? What happens now?”

As I said earlier, this is not ‘news’ but I did have a long talk with Carter before he took the floor against his former team Wednesday night in Dallas. We stood comfortably chatting about Toronto and the myriad of circumstances and issues to the point where I had overstayed my welcome as a media member as the access time has long expired.

Carter says people don’t understand all that happened and there was much more to it than meets the eye in Toronto. In due time, he says he will set the record straight, particularly with the infamous John Thompson interview that seemed to stir the harshest feelings amongst Raptor fans. The inference here is that he has simply turned the other cheek right now as he is chasing a title as a productive older veteran player with the Mavericks.

Regardless of what people think or want to remember, both Carter’s and the city’s star may have shone brightest when the two were paired together. Retire his number? Debate that all you want, but you simply can’t ignore him as a part of Toronto Raptors history and he deserves to be honoured in some form.

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