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L. Jon Wertheim
October 28, 2002
When Vince Carter went down last season, Toronto's fortunes went up. Now he's healthy—and he'll take the fall if this team fails
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October 28, 2002

11 Toronto Raptors

When Vince Carter went down last season, Toronto's fortunes went up. Now he's healthy—and he'll take the fall if this team fails

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2001-02 record: 42-40 (tied for third in Central)
Points scored: 91.4 (25th)
Points allowed: 91.8 (4th)
Coach: Lenny Wilkens (third season with Raptors)



2001-02 KEY STATS


Morris Peterson


14.0 ppg

3.5 rpg

2.4 apg

1.16 spg

43.8 FG%


Antonio Davis


14.5 ppg

9.6 rpg

2.0 apg

1.08 bpg

42.6 FG%


Eric Montross


2.4 ppg

2.9 rpg

0.3 apg

0.47 bpg

40.2 FG%


Vince Carter


24.7 ppg

5.2 rpg

4.0 apg

1.57 spg

42.8 FG%


Aivin Williams


11.8 ppg

3.4 rpg

5.7 apg

1.65 spg

41.5 FG%



2001-02 KEY STATS


Lamond Murray#


16.6 ppg

5.2 rpg

0.99 spg

43.6 FG%

42.4 3FG%


Jerome Williams


7.6 ppg

5.7 rpg

I.I apg

1.15 spg

49.0 FG%


Lindsey Hunter#


5.8 ppg

1.6 apg

.80 spg

38.2 FG%

38.0 3FG%


Nate Huffman (R)#


18.8 ppg

7.5 rpg

1.6 apg

61.2 FG%

39.1 3FG%


Michael Bradley


12 ppg

0.9 rpg

0.1 apg

52.0 FG%

50.0 FT%

#New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for Israeli League)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)

The Raptors opened their training camp in Waterloo, Ont., but it may as well have been Elba. A somnolent town halfway between Toronto and Buffalo, Waterloo offers little in the way of diversions like nightlife. Following two-a-day practices at the municipal gym, the players retreated to their austere quarters at the Waterloo Inn and.... "Uh, there's gonna be a lot of roaming charges on the cell bill," predicted swingman Morris (Mo Pete) Peterson. "Coach decided to get all boot camp on us this year."

Lenny Wilkens has never stood accused of being an intense taskmaster, but tough love may be precisely what his enigmatic, phlegmatic team needs. Picked by many to reach the Finals last season, Vince Carter hobbled through many games, and on March 22, with the team seven games under .500, he shut it down for the season, then underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The Raptors regrouped, winning 12 of their final 14 games to make the playoffs before falling to the Pistons. "It showed that basketball is still a team sport," says general manager Glen Grunwald. "Plus it showed that we have some good players besides Vince."

A cynic might say that Carter's value to the team is questionable, but, to a man, the players have a more charitable spin. "We took away a lot of confidence from the end of last season," says center Antonio Davis. "Now we're thinking, If we continue to play hard, imagine how good we can be with Vince. The sky's the limit, man."

One player crucial to these great expectations is the 25-year-old Peterson, who flourished in Carter's absence. Over the summer Wilkens informed Peterson that he would be spending most of his time on the blocks at small forward. Forewarned, Peterson forearmed himself, adding seven pounds of muscle to his 6'7" frame as well as some low-post moves. "I don't want to give away too much," he says, "but think spin move."

His 42-inch vertical leap notwithstanding, the other Raptor being asked to elevate his game is Carter. Notoriously sensitive to criticism, he is well aware that he has slipped a few notches on the Next-Jordan-o-Meter and that a growing legion of fans and peers questions his desire. He came to camp talking tough, promising to exact revenge on opposing players who took advantage of his gimpy knee and vowing that the nights "when I don't come to play" are over. "Now," he says, "I'm turning it up from the jump ball and turning it off when I'm in the ice bath."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]