2001 NBA Finals

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Bygones are bygones

Carter says he has nothing to prove vs. Knicks

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Posted: Friday April 20, 2001 12:14 AM

  Vince Carter Vince Carter led the Raptors to their best season in the history of the young franchise. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- If Vince Carter feels he has something to prove, he wasn't saying so Thursday.

"The most important thing is wanting to win," said Carter, who passed up a potential game-winning shot at the end of Game 1 of the New York-Toronto series last year and threw the ball to teammate Dee Brown.

Brown missed that shot, and the Raptors went on to get swept by the Knicks in three games.

The teams will meet in a rematch beginning Sunday, and Carter says too much has changed since last year to make anything that happened in that series relevant.

"We're not out here to prove anything. Maybe if we had the same team as last year we might have something to prove, but it's a whole new team," he said. "All that stuff happened last year."

Indeed, both teams have made big changes since last May. Back then, Toronto coach Butch Carter was suing Knicks forward Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady was saying he was undecided about his future with the Raptors and Patrick Ewing was expected to retire as a Knick.

The Raptors have since gotten rid of McGrady, Kevin Willis, Brown and Doug Christie, while the Knicks parted ways with Ewing.

"I think they're a better team than they were last year because of their front line improvements," said Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, whose team lost three of four games against the Raptors during the regular season.

Toronto also went 3-1 against New York in the 1999-00 season, but it was a different story in the playoffs as the Knicks won three games that all came down to the final possession.

The most memorable of those possessions was Carter's in Game 1 when he didn't take Toronto's last shot. Plenty of people in New York still consider that moment -- not his performance in the slam dunk contest, not his clutch shots in the Olympics -- the defining moment of Carter's career.

"I think they will have a little revenge circling around in their minds. We have to meet the challenge," New York's Latrell Sprewell said.

The Knicks have been to the playoffs for 14 consecutive seasons, and they haven't lost a first-round series since 1991.

"We have to come ready," Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens said. "They've been there a number of years so they have the experience edge. But we've played them well during the year and we know that we can beat them."

Carter averaged 24 points in the four games against the Knicks, while the player assigned to defend him, Sprewell, led the Knicks with a 21.5 average.

"He just makes me earn it, and I enjoy it," Carter told reporters in Washington, where the Raptors will stay for two days of playoff preparations. "He makes me bring out my best game, if not, he's going to get me."

The Knicks, who had the day off Thursday, enter the postseason with a banged up team. Camby has a bruised hip, Larry Johnson had a chronically sore back, Glen Rice has a sore foot and Charlie Ward and Allan Houston have fought an assortment of injuries.

Luc Longley, Muggsy Bogues and Lavor Postell were left off New York's playoff roster Thursday.

New York stumbled down the stretch of the regular season, losing to bad teams such as the Cavaliers, Grizzlies and Nets over the final four weeks. The Knicks also have received little offensive production from point guard Mark Jackson, who was acquired from Toronto for Childs at the trading deadline.

Childs angered coach Jeff Van Gundy by gesturing at the Knicks as Toronto was rolling to an easy victory a week after the trade. Knicks fans took out their anger at Childs by booing him mercilessly the first time he returned to Madison Square Garden 10 days later.

"Last time I talked about that I got in trouble, so I'm not going to say anything," Childs said of facing his former teammates. "It's nice to play those guys.

"It's kind of ironic that we're playing the Knicks. It seems like the rivalry we had when I was in New York with Miami has transformed into a New York and Toronto rivalry. I think it will be good for the fans and good for the sport."

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