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.)
NEW YORK – Jason Kidd leaned against a wall in the Baruch College gym and reflected on his time with the Nets. You believed some of the things he said, but not all of them.
For instance, he feels great about what he accomplished with the Nets. You have to believe that. He took them from nothing and made them something.
But some of the things Kidd said on the eve of his first game back in New Jersey since the February trade to Dallas made this skeptical sports writer think No. 5 wasn’t being completely honest.
I know what you’re thinking: You expect a professional athlete to tell the truth? Right, I’m not na´ve, but you would like to hear things like, ‘This is a big game for me especially since everyone has painted me out to be a bad guy for the way it ended.”
OK, that’s just wishful thinking, and it rarely ever happens and it won’t happen with Kidd. He’s very calculated. He never really lets anyone know what he’s thinking until he’s had it, and he wants it out there.
He called this just another game and said it wasn’t one he circled when the schedule came out. From covering Kidd as long as I did, I know he used to look at the schedule, key games, important stretches and things of that nature. This one had to stand out.
It’s his first time back to the place where he enjoyed his greatest success, where he led the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals and essentially went from being a great player to an all-time great player.
So let me take a leap of faith here and say this is a big game for Kidd. It’s not as big as some other firsts he experienced here or a playoff game, but it has to have some meaning to him.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he got all of it out of his system when he talked about playing the Nets for the first time in March, albeit that was in Dallas, and he did at least four different interviews about it.
But Kidd is a competitive person, ultra competitive. He knows people are saying the Nets got the better of the deal with the Mavericks because of how well Devin Harris has played. He’s a burgeoning All-Star at 25 and Kidd, at 35, is playing at a high level, but doesn’t have many years left.
So this “Nets won” idea, which was brought up to Kidd, probably will add some fire to him. You’ll know if you see his dome cleanly shaven. He always did that before big games. Even if he doesn’t shave, my guess is it’s on.
It’s a big one for the Nets. They need a win, badly. They need to establish something at home and need to ride whatever emotions Kidd’s return produces. He’s coming to win – know that. The Nets should do everything to stop it from happening.
When Kidd was here and happy, the Nets had a chance to win every night. It wasn’t until he became unhappy; unhappy to the point he didn’t want to be here – because later in his Nets career he was unhappy a lot – that the Nets didn’t have that same chance. But what he did here shouldn’t be forgotten. He hasn’t.
“I had a good run in Jersey,” Kidd said.
“I think we exhausted every opportunity. We had the two Finals appearances and we made the playoffs every year. We couldn’t get out of the first round a couple times but we seemed to lose to the world champs every time we played somebody in the playoffs.”
Kidd did have a great run in Jersey. He made the Nets ma tter for the time he was here and even when he was unhappy because you knew every game you could be covering Kidd’s last game as a Net.
You also knew his departure was going to be the end of something special. That’s why his return is a big game, even if he chooses not to admit it.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J).