DALLAS — The Vince Carter era may have closed last night and if it did it ended badly.
Carter didn’t score after halftime and the Nets didn’t defend after the break in a 113-98 trouncing to the Dallas Mavericks.
But the result isn’t as important as Carter’s future whereabouts, which everyone will know by three p.m. this afternoon. That’s when the trade deadline hits and Carter either will breathe a sigh of relief — along with thousands of Nets’ fans — or he will have to pack the suitcase he just finished unpacking.
Carter could stay in New Jersey or could wind up back here in Dallas, or in the Pacific Northwest with Portland or in Cleveland. It all depends on what owner Bruce Ratner decides about the current state of the Nets’ economy.
It’s not good. We all know that. But the Nets are not alone. The NBA had to borrow $175 million to help teams losing money and you can bet the Nets are one of them. So it’s not as if it’s any surprise that this team is hurting financially.
It’s not as if Ratner is going to wake up and say, “We need to do something.” He’s probably thought it out already and decided and we all should know the answer today.
We have to know the answer today. There are no more days to trade player after this. It’s not like baseball where there are technically two trade deadlines. This is it.
Throughout the yesterday, sources said the Nets weren’t close to doing anything, certainly nothing with Carter, and they were trying to make other deals that might bring back young players or shed payroll. That could be what they end up doing anyway. But a trade of Carter remains a possibility and will until three p.m.
The Blazers and Nets have discussed a Carter for Raef LaFrentz, Travis Outlaw and Sergio Fernandez swap. More would be involved to make it work financially and to fit three players on the roster.
Portland and the Bucks have discussed something similar with those three Blazers going to Milwaukee for ex-Net Richard Jefferson.
As we wrote yesterday, you can throw any scenario out there. The Cavaliers have offered Wally Szczerbiak and his expiring contract for Carter. The Spurs would like to get involved, but likely would need a third team. The Rockets have interest, but they haven’t agreed upon parameters.
So what’s next? It’s up to the Nets’ owners.
Do they want a competitive team? (That was hard to type with a straight face since the Nets have lost the last four games by a total of 73 points.) Or do they deal Carter for salary relief and play in front of a mostly empty Izod Center? (It was hard to type the last part with a straight face since with Carter the building isn’t exactly full).
There won’t be many straight faces, though, if Carter is moved. You, the fans, would be upset.
This isn’t like last year when the Nets had to move Jason Kidd because he had become a distraction and disruptive. The buzz may have left, but there was a feeling of optimism when Devin Harris arrived.
If Carter is traded by three p.m. for financial reasons, there will be less buzz and little optimism about the Nets.
The ex-Nets, Jason Kidd and Antoine Wright, had two of their better game s of the season.
Kidd had just his fourth 20-point game of the season, as he finished with 23 points and 10 assists. And Wright had 20. The two shot 14-for-21 combined, including 9-of-10 on threes. In the third period, when the Mavericks blew open a close game, outscoring the Nets 40-15, Wright had 13 and Kidd had 11.
Knowing Kidd, he was thinking payback after what happened in East Rutherford in December. Harris scored 41 points and the home crowd chanted, “Thank you, Cuban!” near the end of the Nets’ 24-point victory.
Harris outplayed Kidd that night and Kidd outplayed Harris (5-for-18, 18 points, seven assists) last night.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)