TORONTO--Vince Carter is enjoying a resurgence in New Jersey. His game has reached another level, in part because he’s playing alongside Jason Kidd, but mostly because he is finally making an effort to do something other than stand there and take up space.

“I definitely feel like I’m experiencing a rebirth here in New Jersey,” said Carter. “I have really changed my work habits and approach to the game. Unlike in Toronto, I’m actually trying to play well and be successful. It’s such a novel idea. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.”

Carter scored 41 points during Saturday night’s rout of the Pistons, 10 shy of his career high. The Nets are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

“I just wanted to come to this team and help turn things around,” said Carter. “In Toronto I had a tough time because I was not motivated enough to make a real effort. The millions of dollars I was making didn’t really mean much to me. I’m not all about the money, unlike certain people in the Raptors front office who think I should ‘try’ to help the team in exchange for 'millions of dollars.' I’m sorry, but that’s not what I’m about.”

In addition to his increased effort, Carter has also improved his attitude. Since joining the team in December he has been a model citizen and consummate team player. His numbers have been up across the board, and more importantly, the team is winning.

“He’s been a huge asset for this team,” said point guard Jason Kidd. “Since Day 1 he has been selfless, hard-working, and professional. He even shows up for practice. Every single day, rain or shine, he is on the court with the rest of us. And he stays hours after it’s over to practice posing and sneering. We haven’t had a guy like that since Kenyon Martin left.”

Carter has made such a turnaround, in fact, that he is no longer nodding off during games.

“I have been awake for just about every minute of every game since I’ve joined this team,” said Carter. “It’s one of the things coach [Lawrence] Frank highlighted for me when we first sat down together. He said that I’d be a much more effective scorer and teammate if I was able to maintain consciousness while on the court. See, this is the difference between this team and my last team. In Toronto, I didn’t have people coaching me up like that.”

Carter’s former coach in Toronto, Sam Mitchell, responded to his comments yesterday, claiming the coaching staff tried everything they could but could not get through to their star player.

“Getting Vince to stop dozing off was an impossible task,” Mitchell said in an interview with the Toronto Sun. “Sometimes he would just drop to the floor without warning. The first time it happened I thought he was having a heart attack, but it turned out he was just sleeping. It’s unfortunate. If he had died, it would’ve been a huge salary cap relief for us.”

With his increased effort paying dividends, Carter has taken to preaching the gospel of trying to his teammates. Some have welcomed his coaching, while others have found it insulting.

“I don’t need Vince telling me to make an effort,” said center Jason Collins. “I’ve been doing that my whole life. I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for my hard work and blue-collar style of play. I am happy for Vince, though. I felt terrible for him when he was playing in Canada and had to endure the torment of being a sports superstar in a major international city.”

Now that he’s out of Toronto, Carter is a new man. He plans to continue putting forth a decent effort every night, attending practice, and staying awake while on the court. Individual numbers have taken a back seat to helping his club win the division.

“I’m all about the team now. I don’t even care what my numbers are,” he said. “Statistics don’t win championships. Teams win championships. And this ‘trying’ thing, it’s just been revolutionary for me. It’s really elevated my game. In Toronto, coach Mitchell would tell me to try all the time, but he never really had any conviction. He never really sold me on the whole concept. That’s why I lost a little respect for him this past season. I mean if you can’t motivate your players to even stay awake on the court, you’ve got some serious shortcomings as a coach. Thank God I finally escaped that purgatory.”

Vince Carter Playing A Lot Better Now That He’s Trying
February 8th , 2005- Volume 1 Issue 86