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Carter says little about future at annual charity game

| Saturday, July 31, 2004

TORONTO - Vince Carter held his annual all-star charity game Friday night at the Air Canada Centre amid trade rumors and scuttlebutt that the Raptors star wants nothing more to do with Toronto.

Fans cheered Carter's high-flying dunks and held signs pleading with him to stay in Toronto.

But Carter didn't do much to dispel the rumors. He did say he wants to remain a Raptor, but at the same time, he didn't exactly give the team a ringing endorsement.

When a reporter told Carter that fans would like to know if he plans to come back next season, Carter said: "Of course."

"I had the charity game this year, didn't I• If I didn't want to be here, I wouldn't have it," he said. "I think people worry about the wrong thing, just let it happen, let's look at the positive things."

The five-time all-star dodged questions about his future and the trade rumors.

"I'm fine, I'm not even going to talk about that," Carter said when asked if he had requested a trade. "I'm going to talk about the charity game only, all that other stuff is going to take care of itself."

Carter was asked what he tells young fans when they ask about trade rumors.

"Enjoy me wherever I am," he replied. "If I'm your favorite, I'm your favorite anywhere. I'm one of those people who says when it happens it happens, and until then, this is who I am, this is where I am."

Raptors general manager Rob Babcock, who met with Carter earlier this week, sounded slightly more confident Carter will be with Toronto next season.

"Those conversations have been nothing but positive and of complete mutual respect," Babcock, in his first year with the team, said. "I really like Vince, I think Vince is an integral part of this basketball team and I feel very confident that we have mutual respect and we're on the same page basketball-wise."

Babcock said Carter had not requested a trade, but when asked if Carter's agent, Mark Steinberg, had, Babcock said: "I'm not going to comment on that."

Carter was reportedly angry the team didn't consult him on the hiring of Babcock and coach Sam Mitchell, who replaced Kevin O'Neill after the Raptors missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Babcock said he knew going in it may be tough to win over the players.

"We're all brand new," he said. "All the players are a little emotional, this is the third new head coach in three years, you can't expect them to jump up and down with joy and accept us with open arms.

"We have to earn that respect, I understand that. All we're asking for is an opportunity to that and come in and be professional."

Carter said he liked and respected Mitchell when he was a player, but admitted it would be "weird" to now deal with him as a coach.

"It's difficult, but I guess all in all they're trying to find that right one that fits for this team, and sometimes that makes it tough," Carter said. "I'm not saying it's the best thing, to keep going back and forth, starting over. They're just trying to make it work."

Among the players participating in the charity game were Toronto teammates Jalen Rose, Morris Peterson, who re-signed with the Raptors earlier Friday, and Rafer Alston, who returned to Toronto after a season with the Miami Heat.

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