Sun, Dec 26, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Vince Carter happy to be in New Jersey

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY

After a successful and pain-free practice Friday afternoon, Vince Carter was asked if he had a Christmas wish. Carter smiled. He quickly replied that he had already received his Christmas gift; he is playing for the Nets.

The Nets' headquarters, in a lonely building on an industrial street across the parking lots and access roads for Giants Stadium, may not seem to be much of a destination. But the Nets represent something much grander for Carter.

"This is a new start," he said.

The new start is expected to come Monday in Detroit, where Carter is scheduled to play his first game for the Nets. Carter, who has been bothered by a strained left Achilles' tendon, said Friday that he felt no pain and had no swelling.

"Can't wait," he said.

Coach Lawrence Frank did not want to commit to starting Carter on Monday or even to gauging his playing time.

He said he wanted to see how Carter responded after his practice Friday, his first hard workout since Toronto traded him to the Nets on Dec. 17.

Frank said he liked how Carter moved Friday, particularly in the low post -- a hint that he could start out as a small forward, leaving Richard Jefferson at shooting guard. Frank said Carter made great passes, and he was able to leap for passes.

"He did a lot of impressive things," Frank said.

Carter's presence seems to have rejuvenated the Nets (9-16), who are three and a half games behind the first-place Knicks (13-13) in the Atlantic Division. Jefferson said that playing 14 of the next 19 games on the road might actually be a good thing for the Nets.

The Nets have changed, Jefferson said, and they need to grow together. Being on the road gives a team a chance to bond. Carter has a lot to learn about the Nets' offense and defense, but Frank said that Carter had "been a very willing learner, which is the No. 1 thing; he's a quick learner."

But can Carter be a quick adapter? He and Jefferson have similar skills. Carter said Friday that he simply wanted to complement Jefferson and point guard Jason Kidd, saying the court was big enough for all three of them.

"Richard welcomes him with open arms," Kidd said.

"Richard doesn't have to be carrying the team, and vice versa. Vince doesn't have to carry the load like he did in Toronto."

That may be what appeals most to Carter about joining the Nets.

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