X-Factor: Vince Carter
By Rob Peterson
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty
Vince in T-Dot? We wouldn't miss it

If you're like us (and you just might be), then you can't wait for the opening tip of the Toronto Raptors-New Jersey Nets First Round series.

This series has enough subplots to fill an 800-page novel: Raptors coach and leading Coach of the Year candidate Sam Mitchell gets to test his Xs & Os mettle vs. Lawrence Frank; Jason Kidd, one of the greatest point guards of all time gets to chase lightning quick T.J. Ford all over North America and Toronto's rabid fan base getting a chance to root, root, root for the Raptors in the postseason for the first time since 2002.

All of that rooting, however, will be moot when it comes to the series' X-Factor: Vince Carter.

We usually don't bestow X-Factor status on a superstar, but in this series we have no choice. Carter will be the focal point.

And you want to talk about sub-plots, Carter provides plenty. His separation from Toronto reeked of gasoline and burned bridges, especially from the Raptors fans' point of view. I may be old, but I'm not old enough to remember the Roman Coliseum's first 100 days, but I can't imagine the Air Canada Centre being any less frenzied during Game 1.

Carter, if the Raptors take care of business, could be playing his last games in a Nets uniform as he can opt out of his contract after this season.

Then, there is the issue of his play. He has the talent and the skills to completely and utterly dominate a game, but can he (or is he willing) to put the Nets on his back and carry them into the Eastern Conference Semifinals? He has stellar postseason averages (29.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 5.2 apg), but he's never been past the conference semis.

Make no mistake, in terms of a fan base coming to terms with their former franchise player's past and because of his play on the court, Vince Carter will be the No. 1 story of this series ... and its biggest X-Factor.



X-Factors: ACB LBJ | Battier | VC | Harris | Horry | Nellie | Nene | Odom

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