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This Time, Vince Feels Comfortable

by Fred Kerber,
New York Post
[Not Online]

When Vince Carter debuted with the Nets last December, he wasn't seeking an immediate splash. His goal was much more simple.

"To learn the plays," Carter smiled. "It's the excitement of being on a new team. But at the same time, when he calls the play, you don't know where to go, [or] what to do without messing it up."

When Carter starts his first full Nets season tomorrow, it will be "night and day" from December. He's got a full training camp behind him. And while he didn't know what to expect last season, he has expectations now.

"We have scorers, we have shooters, we have defenders. We're a tough team. If you put all that together it makes a playoff team, which I think we can be," said Carter, whose personal goals are "to continue to play solid basketball, be aggressive, get to the line. Do whatever I need to for this team to win."

Jason Collins went through a full contact practice yesterday and expects to play tomorrow. Coach Lawrence Frank also plans on Collins being available but sidestepped the issue of whether his forward will start against Milwaukee.

"I can do everything that I need to do out there on the court. It isn't exactly 100 percent, but I think I can go out there and be effective," said Collins, who underwent arthroscopic right knee surgery June 17 to remove torn cartilage, then sat seven of eight preseason games to strengthen the joint.

"He did look good," admitted Frank, who noted, "We'll take it one step at a time," when asked if Collins would start.

The Nets picked up the fourth-year option on Zoran Planinic ($1.85M), surprising the Croatian guard, who suggested his preseason play was the determining factor.

"I'm very happy they showed they want me here. I was a little bit surprised. I didn't think they were going to pick up my option but they did," said Planinic, who shot .577 in the preseason. "I think that helped. [A few] months ago, I don't think they even considered it. But I think I played pretty good."

Said GM Ed Stefanski, who originally scouted Planinic in Europe, "He showed improvement off his first year, last year he showed improvement, this summer he had a very good summer in the European championships. He played well.

"The key word I guess we always talk about Z is consistency. If he can be consistent, he's shown he has NBA skills and talent."

The Nets are down one assistant coach as assistant Gordon Chiesa resigned because of family reasons. Chiesa joined the Nets last summer after 16 years in Utah.

"He's a tremendous coach and good friend. It's very unfortunate things didn't work out. We're going to miss him," Frank said.