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Just Vin, Baby! - Desperate Nets Welcome Back Carter

FRED KERBER,

NEW YORK POST STAFF

22 November 2007

PORTLAND - It was hard to tell who was more anxious to get Vince Carter back on the floor in a game situation - Carter himself, his Nets teammates or Nets brass.

Carter was bugging out, having missed five full games and a partial sixth - all defeats - since suffering a sprained right ankle.

Carter's teammates saw first-hand what his extended absence means in all aspects. And the brass simply rolled it all together, with five defeats being the key.

"I'd love to be out there. I just have to wait for the say-so," said Carter, who was primed to play - probably coming off the bench - here last night when the Nets sought to end a six-game losing streak.

"We could have won six in a row and I'd still want to play. ... Six games out, it's killing me."

It didn't do a heckuva lot for the Nets, either.

They were going with their fourth different starting lineup in five games last night as Malik Allen and Jason Collins started instead of Sean Williams and Jamaal Magloire.

The Nets averaged 76.6 points per defeat, shot a dreadful .366 and zoomed to the top (or bottom) of the turnovers committed column on your daily NBA stats page. They near-impossibly made the old Bob MacKinnon Nets seem palatable.

But without Carter, double teams (and hence open shooters) become more rare. If shots are made, they often achieve an 8 or 9 on the judges' degree of difficulty scale. The guys most affected, naturally, are Richard Jefferson, Antoine Wright, Bostjan Nachbar.

"It would open things up for me," Nachbar (in a .359 shooting rut - and, ridiculously, that was sixth-best on the team) said of Carter's return.

"I play much better when he's in the game, because I play off of him."

And Carter knows the positive effect he has on teammates, whether his shot falls or not.

"I do," said Carter, averaging 17.0 points and shooting just .395 at the time of his injury. "We all work well together. When [teams] double, I know in different situations where they are on the floor. I can't wait to get back out there to get those guys going again. And get myself going."

Coach Lawrence Frank praised Carter as being another Jason Kidd in the offense because of his passing skills.

So Frank and team president Rod Thorn were as anxious as any player.

"Vince's tangible ability is, he does bring two to the ball, so he gives you more separation for all those other guys to tee up shots," Frank explained.

Carter's return doesn't ensure success, but you have to like the Nets' chances a lot better.

"Vince isn't here with a cape and all of a sudden it's going to change," Frank said. "No, it's a process. It's not necessarily the play as it is the execution of the play that we have to get better at."

But at least they figured to be whole to try said execution.

"He helps spread the court, he helps make other people better," Thorn said of Carter. "He's a facilitator."