By Dave D'Alessandro
If there is a way to celebrate an anniversary, this was it.
On his 364th day as a member of the Nets, Vince Carter turned into an offensive monster for old times' sake, posting some of the best box score numbers of his career, with 34 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 45 minutes.
But it was his poise at the end of regulation that made the night a suc cess - assisting on Scott Padgett's 3-pointer with 53 seconds left, then drawing a double and making the right decision that led to Jason Kidd's tying 3-pointer to force overtime, which was merely a formality in the Nets' 115-106 victory over Denver.
"Vince was Vince, and we were the Nets," Kidd said. "I think that's the way we have to play. There are going to be times during the season when Vince can't put those types of numbers up, but that's why we play as a team and we can pick him up. He made some great plays - not just scoring, but finding the open guy. And I thought he did a great job defensively, too."
On the one hand, Rod Thorn has been prodding Lawrence Frank to find playing time for Marc Jackson, who was a DNP again last night. On the other hand, the team president has little tolerance for players who complain when they underachieve during the minutes they do receive.
So when asked whether Jackson has a legitimate gripe over his air time (a paltry 7.0 minutes per game in his past 11 games), Thorn hedged.
"With the exception of Antoine (Wright), who hasn't played, and Linton Johnson, who has played sparingly, everyone has had some sort of time when they've had a chance to play," Thorn said.
"It doesn't bother me if a player expresses desire to play. After all, that's what any player worth his salt wants. From a coach's perspective, he's only going to play those he feels are going to give him the best chance to win. And that's what I have to say about it."
Publicly, anyway. But Thorn is said to be eager to get Jackson more minutes, if only to showcase him for a trade.
Nenad Krstic was in the first prolonged offensive slump of his career, averaging just 9.8 points on 38.3 percent shooting and 4.7 re bounds over his previous eight games. That ended last night, when he had 17 points and 11 boards against the Nuggets.
Krstic admitted before the game that he was "not as tough when things are going bad for me," but he admitted that fatigue was an issue - even though he looked very fresh after going 43 minutes last night.
"I came off a tough loss with the (Serbian) national team, and I didn't (have) two and half months before the start of training camp," he said. "I've been playing since the first of July. You practice every day. My form and my game goes up, but all year it can't go up. Sometimes it has to go down."
Frank refused to address Alonzo Mourning's assertion in Sports Illustrated that the Nets tried to wear him out by overplaying him last season - ostensibly so that he would be forced to retire, enabling the team to lop his salary off the cap a year early.
"I didn't read it," the coach said. "I've got the highest level of respect for Alonzo. I think Alonzo is a really good human being. He's a great competitor and I really enjoyed my time with him."