HOUSTON – The Nets are playing the Mavericks on Wednesday night, facing their old captain Jason Kidd for just the third time since he forced a trade a year ago, and his name hardly came up yesterday, if it all. The talk was all about the Nets’ current captain.
Vince Carter has been the subject of trade rumors, and with the deadline for teams to make a deal coming at 3 p.m. Thursday, it’s crunch time. It’s possible he could be playing his final game as a Net in Dallas.
Carter spoke all about the reports and rumors at Monday’s practice and Tuesday’s shootaround. But he was tired of it by the end of the Nets’ 114-88 loss to the Rockets.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Carter said. “There’s nothing to talk about really.”
You can’t blame him for saying enough is enough after all the questions he’s answered on the topic. You can’t go on any basketball website without seeing another team offering something for Carter or different players being mentioned for the Nets’ best player.
Just to recap, the Rockets, Spurs, Mavericks, Cavaliers and Blazers are among the teams the Nets have spoken to about Carter. They could get Ron Artest, Shane Battier, Carl Landry and Luther Head from Houston if both teams sign off. They could get a package from the Spurs featuring George Hill, Roger Mason, Bruce Bowen and Fabricio if they can agree, but so much has to happen for a 4-for-1 to get done.
The Nets could get Wally Szczerbiak from Cleveland. They could get Jerry Stackhouse, Brandon Bass and parts from Dallas. They could include the Blazers as a third team to make some of these deals work or deal straight up with Portland with Raef LeFrentz’s expiring contract the chip many teams are interested in.
Or there could be a team out there that no one is mentioning yet.
Or how about this crazy idea: the Nets do nothing.
Look, anything is possible at this point. It’s looking more and more like the Nets will stand pat, but they have time and they would like to do something – not necessarily with Carter, though.
Management likes Carter and knows his importance and value to the team. But the Nets would like to upgrade the small forward position, get another guard, more good young athletes, more draft picks, shave salary and all by 3 p.m. Thursday.
Last night wasn’t a good night for the Nets, though. Carter played great with 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting, and rookie Brook Lopez had 21 points and nine rebounds. But there was little good that came out of this game for the Nets.
They couldn’t control the dribble, couldn’t match the Rockets’ physicality and aggressiveness and were late to shooters all night. The result: the Nets were minus-26 on the boards, minus-14 on the offensive glass, and the three-point shooting was a joke.
The Nets were 9-of-15, which is great. But the Rockets hit 15 from deep, setting a season high.
“It’s tough,” Carter said. “It’s tough to win that way when you’re not guarding the ball, giving up threes, giving up so many rebounds. They beat us 16-2 in offensive rebounds. It was tough.”
Wednesday could be tough as well.
The Mavericks have owned the Nets at home, winning eight straight.
The Nets have to be prepared for the Mavericks having a payback mentality after they were crushed in New Jersey in December, when Devin Harris scored 41 points and the fans serenaded Dallas owner Mark Cuban with chants of “Thank you, Cuban.”
But it remains a secondary story about the Nets. Garnering all the headlines is where will Carter end up? We’re getting closer to knowing that answer. Carter probably can’t wait until it’s over, and all the questions, too.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)