All Flights Cancelled

Now in her fourth season with Raptors NBA TV, Norma Wick hosts roundtable discussion show, “Full Court Press” and a weekly basketball wrap-up titled “Floor Level”. You can always find Norma reporting on the sidelines of an NBA court near you.

by Norma Wick
January 10, 2005

(TORONTO) -- Vince Carter ignited a firestorm a few days ago when, during an interview with John Thompson on TNT, he admitted that he hadn’t been pushing himself in Toronto as hard as he should have.

"In years past, no”, said Carter, who was traded to New Jersey on December 17th. “I was fortunate to have the talent ... you get spoiled when you're able to do a lot of things. You see that you don't have to work at it. Now, with the all the injuries, I have to work harder. I'm a little hungrier. Getting a fresh start has made me want to attack the basket."

Vince Carter has taken his act to New Jersey. (NBAE/Getty Images)size>

Howls of indignation could be heard, aided by the microphones and pens of the media, across the great White North. Like jilted lovers, many were affronted by his admission.

I’m a little bit puzzled as to why. Vince didn’t say anything that his lovers (and haters) didn’t already know.

The fact that Carter was not performing up to his abilities was the primary reason he was traded. Raptors GM Rob Babcock made it clear at the outset of Vince’s trade demand last summer, that the franchise didn’t care what Carter wanted in terms of an address, or a jersey color. What Babcock said was he would be guided by what was best for the organization, period.

When it became clear that, despite potential, Vince was not going to realize it in a Raptors’ jersey, the club began to explore options to improve the culture of the team, if nothing else.

The move puts more teeth into a campaign that promised “A New Era” in Raptors basketball. The club officially began that transition on December 17th, when it cut the strongest tie to the old one.

Vince Carter was basketball in Toronto, the face of the franchise and let’s be honest, after three consecutive seasons of mediocrity, the Raptors were in serious need of a face lift. Carter’s leaving should be understood as a part of a process that ultimately could benefit all involved.

I understand that the ticket-buying public would be less than impressed with a young man who took their money, but came up short on his end of the bargain, just as I would sympathize with a friend who had trusted, nurtured and loved - only to discover they had been deceived, used up and discarded. However, taking it personally only prolongs both the suffering and the recovery.

I don’t believe that people try to be a disappointment. Sometimes, they’re just not up to the task. Whether character flaws or a lack of inspiration/chemistry led to the breakdown of the relationship doesn’t matter. The truth is, it wasn’t working.

It's time to focus on guys we know are giving %100, like Chris Bosh and his four-straight double-doubles. (Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)size>

If you’re inclined to judge Vince harshly, be glad he’s someone else’s problem. He didn’t get away with anything. His mistakes and missteps will form part of a legacy that he alone will have to shoulder. On the other hand, if you believe he’s simply been fumbling towards maturity, hope that his experiences here – good and bad – will help him grow up. He’s too talented and too nice a person to wallow in a half-awakened state.

In keeping Vince, the Raptors were also in a form of limbo. The organization decided to move on and now - so should everybody else. My mother always said, “Don’t look back unless you’re going that way.” I can’t imagine a single ticket holder who would want a repeat of the last three seasons.

Besides, there are signs that point to a better future:

  • The development of “Heir Canada”. Every day, Chris Bosh gets a little closer to becoming an all-star – at 20-years old.
  • Sam Mitchell. A candid coach who has shown a rare ability to relate, motivate and agitate – 10 weeks into his first head coaching job.
  • A season-ticket campaign slogan that still works in January. Apparently “A New Era” is more than just a marketing catchphrase. GM Rob Babcock has shown some conviction in changing the culture of the club. He had the courage to sign a rookie head coach, trade a franchise player (if in cap space only) and allow $14 million to be removed from the starting line-up. He appears to have a clear definition of what he wants of this team and its players and has empowered the coach. Stop me if I’m wrong, but I think the Raptors might be cruising towards an “identity”.
  • A Bench. Last year the pine was more of a pine box for a handful of players. This is year at least one of them, Lamond Murray, has risen from the dead and the Raptors
    have added some role players of increasing importance like Matt Bonner and Rafael Araujo (who has performed well in his recent starts) – who also happen to be rookies.

    But as far as “positive signs” in the Raptors new direction, the best one I saw was in the stands at Air Canada Centre last week. It read:


    That’s good advice - at least you’ll know you’re on the right track.

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