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Vince Carter #15 of the New Jersey Nets attempts to dunk against the New York Knicks Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
NEW JERSEY—On Tuesday night January 11th the New Jersey Nets (12-22) hosted the defending champion Detroit Pistons (19-14) – it was the second meeting between the two Eastern Conference rivals since VinSanity invaded the Continental Airlines Arena. The Champs took that first meeting at the Palace of Auburn Hills in a thrilling overtime victory 100-90 two days after Christmas. Vince Carter was able to generate 23 points going 8 of 19 from the field and 4 of 4 from the line; adding three steals, four boards and five assists.
The lost of Kenyon Martin (Denver Nuggets) clipped the wings of the high-flying Nets. The 6’ 8” Martin’s defensive presence helped to ignite the fast break, now it is no longer a part of the Nets arsenal. Martin also possessed the ability to get out on the wing and run the floor in anticipation of a Kidd assist. Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter looked to be on their way to re-establishing the up tempo brand of basketball that made the Nets Atlantic Division Champs for three consecutive seasons.
The December 17th acquisition of Carter from the division rival Toronto Raptors (13-22) looms even larger now because that December 27th match up spelled the end for the Nets leading scorer, Jefferson (22.2 ppg).
Jefferson, who was having an All Star caliber season; while on the break, was upended by Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, sending RJ crashing to the Palace floor. The 6’ 7” small forward hurt his left wrist in the fall. He played several games following the injury but was unable to perform at a level that he expects of himself.
Just before the Tuesday rematch Nets President Rod Thorn announced that Richard Jefferson was done for the season due to a ruptured ligament in his left wrist, which requires surgery.
Before the game Jefferson was asked if he felt that Billups made a dirty play, “Was it a dirty play—yes; is Chauncey Billups a dirty player—not at all,” RJ responded.
The Defending Champion Pistons entered Tuesday’s rematch with a five game road-winning streak, and the Nets, without Jefferson, was ripe for number six. From the bench RJ watched, as Detroit, led by Rasheed Wallace’s 19 point and 13 boards beat his Nets 89-80. The lost was the Nets fourth in five games putting them a half game behind the Toronto Raptors solidifying their hold on last place in the division.
Amidst his controversial comments about not giving his all during some of the games he played north of the border Vince Carter led all Nets with 19 points on 7-20 from the field in 42 minutes. With the absences of Jefferson the Pistons defense was able to force the Nets and Carter into taking bad shots. Jason Kidd went 5-13 scoring 13 points and Travis Best pumped in 16 points on 6-17 from the field.
“We will win without Richard—but we’re gonna have to find out how we’re gonna do it without him. Everyone is going to have to step up—we’re gonna have value each possession on both ends of the court.” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said after the game.
“This is a huge blow for us… Richard was having an All Star year, and he would probably want to continue to play. But surgery is needed, which would keep him out for the rest of the season,” said Thorn.
This is the time for Vince Carter to step up and take over the scoring load—no days off. I know how hard it is to perform at a high level day in and day out. I lead the Play Station league and at times I feel that I can win on talent alone. Seriously, Vince is capable of taking over a game at any time—and for all the people out there that have criticized him because of his comments about not showing up on occasions I bet you also cast your vote for him during All Star voting—you did it because you had know idea that he was not playing at his highest level.
I’m sure that Vince Carter wished that he’d worked harder at keeping his body in basketball shape. He might have been able to prevent some of the injuries that have caused him to miss so many games.
Will the Nets be able to ride Vince to the playoff? With the Nets trailing the division leading Knicks by only 4 ½ games I think that it’s possible—if so, expect to see Richard Jefferson back on the court during playoff time. Until then, Vince has to show up and play at his highest level—as I’m sure he will.