AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Vince Carter hoped that 2008 would go out with a bang, but this wasn’t what he had in mind.
Referee Derrick Stafford banged Carter with a technical and seconds later banged him again. But it’s not just the two quick techs that made this a potentially combustible situation.
Reporters on the end of the court where the argument occurred heard Carter telling Stafford, “Don’t call me boy.” Team sources also said Carter contends Stafford, who is African-American, called him “boy.”
Carter, however, refused to comment after the Nets ended 2008 at 15-17 after an 83-75 loss to the Pistons. He walked past reporters and shook his head before getting on the team bus.
It was a shocking turn of events considering Carter’s demeanor and reputation. He’d only been ejected one other time in his 11-year NBA career. But whatever he heard Stafford say set him off.
Being around him since 2004, I’ve only seen him this angry one other time and that was when he got his first ejection after Bruce Brown stuck his foot under Carter as he came down from a jump shot in 2005. Carter charged after Bowen, who had done something similar to Vince in Toronto and caused him to sprain his ankle.
Of course, this situation, which occurred with 6:48 remaining in the second period, was different and totally unexpected.
“He was fired up,” Devin Harris said. “He was pretty ticked off. From the things I heard [from Carter], rightfully so. But it’s out of our hands now.”
Harris also said he’s “sure the NBA will take care of that.” He was one of three people who tried to get to Carter to calm him down. But Carter became irate after drawing the second technical in just three seconds.
“The official said something to Vince that Vince thought was very inappropriate and he reacted,” coach Lawrence Frank said
It occurred on a mostly innocuous play, too.
Carter made a good defensive play, slapping an Allen Iverson pass away and it seemed to skim Iverson’s jersey as he was out of bounds. But Stafford called it Pistons’ ball.
“Vince thought the ball was off Allen,” Frank said. “He said something. The official said something back to him. It triggered a response from Vince and boom, boom.”
I don’t know Stafford, but earlier I saw a member of the Nets try to ask him something and he seemed like he didn’t want to20be bothered. I commented to another reporter that Stafford always looks angry. I was at the game when he gave then-Nets coach Byron Scott a quick shower in 2000.
None of us should be too quick to judge what happened because Carter obviously said something to Stafford, too. This will be for the league to decide at some point.
Without Carter, the Nets gave a terrific effort, but it was another case of too little, too late. They were down 16 in the first half and got within five in the third, only to see the Pistons seemingly pull away. They were up 15 with about nine minutes left, but the Nets wouldn’t let up.
After all, they are a different team on the road, where they have shown they fight harder than they do at home.
So with rookie Brook Lopez dominating and finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds, the Nets were within 75-72 with three minutes left in the game. But two Iverson baskets and a bad offensive foul call against Lopez when he scored inside late essentially cost them the game.
This isn’t how the Nets and Carter hoped to end 2008. They wanted to be .500 and ring in the New Year feeling good. Carter didn’t look too festive when he was leaving the court or when he was boarding the bus.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)