TORONTO (AP) -- Vince Carter believes he can regain his status
among the NBA's elite under new coach Kevin O'Neill.
Carter scored 25 of his 39 points in the second half as the
Toronto Raptors rallied for a 90-87 victory over the New Jersey
Nets in the season opener for both teams Wednesday night.
Carter, who played only 43 games last season because of
injuries, almost single-handedly gave O'Neill his first win.
"I've been working my butt off to get back to this level. I
feel good, I feel healthy and I feel comfortable," said Carter,
who hasn't played a complete season in three years because of knee
O'Neill reluctantly accepted the game ball from Carter, who is
happy to have a coach that is pushing him. O'Neill, known for his
intense coaching style, replaced the easygoing Lenny Wilkens.
"I'm happy for KO. He didn't want to take it," Carter said.
"He's a good coach. I like him. I think he's good for us."
Carter shot 5-for-14 from the field in the first half, but
finished 15-for-30. He also went 9-for-10 from the foul line.
"Since I got here, I've said that the least of my worries is
Vince," said O'Neill, a former college coach who was an assistant
with the Knicks and Pistons. "I mean, the guy took a lot of flak
for being hurt, and I don't think that's fair. The bottom line is
that when he's healthy, he's pretty hard to deal with."
Kenyon Martin had 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Eastern
Conference champion Nets. Jason Kidd had 11 points on 4-for-18
shooting and missed a 3-pointer that could have tied it at the
Richard Jefferson shot 3-for-13 and scored 10.
"We missed shots. Jason missed his and Richard missed some,"
said New Jersey coach Byron Scott, who doesn't have a contract
beyond this year despite leading the Nets to two straight NBA
Finals. "We stopped being aggressive at both ends of the court.
With a superstar like Vince, you can't let them back in the game."
Alonzo Mourning, who missed all of last season with a kidney
ailment, had six points and three rebounds in 17 minutes in a
reserve role. Mourning signed a $22 million, four-year contract
with New Jersey this past summer.
"Just getting back out there is progress," Mourning said. "At
the same time, I still have a lot of room for improvement, so I'm
going to continue to work."
Kerry Kittles' dunk gave the Nets a 13-point lead early in the
third quarter -- their biggest of the game.
"Once we got up by 13, we just relaxed and put it in cruise
control," Kidd said. "We have to understand how to finish off a
Carter kicked the scorers table in frustration, and responded by
scoring 14 of Toronto's next 22 points.
"I want to win so bad. I want this team to get back to where we
were in 2000," Carter said of the team that came within a jumper
of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals that season. "I just
wasn't satisfied with how I was playing."
After Toronto's Chris Bosh made a layup, Carter drove to the
basket for what would have been a spectacular dunk, but he missed
after being fouled. He hit his two free throws.
Carter capped a 14-4 run with a layup, cutting New Jersey's lead
to one with 1:00 left in the third.
Martin scored on a dunk, but Carter followed with a jumper and a
fadeaway for his 30th point, giving Toronto a 71-69 lead -- its
first of the night.
Kidd's two free throws gave New Jersey a one-point lead with
2:05 left, but Bosh made an open jumper.
Carter was called for goaltending on Kidd's layup, giving New
Jersey an 83-82 lead with 1:10 left, but Carter followed with a
fadeaway and a running jumper, giving Toronto an 86-84 advantage
with 14 seconds left.
After Martin made one of two free throws, Alvin Williams made
two free throws for Toronto with 12 seconds remaining.
Martin's 3-pointer cut the lead to one with four seconds left,
but Williams made two more free throws and Kidd missed a 3-pointer
at the buzzer.
Antonio Davis added 14 rebounds and 12 points for the Raptors,
who shot 34 percent in the first half.
Scott started Jason Collins instead of Mourning. ... The
Raptors sported red uniforms, which are meant to emphasize they are
Canada's team. They'll wear the alternate uniforms at least 10
times on the road. ... O'Neill started Jerome Williams instead of
Bosh or Jerome Moiso. Williams had 14 rebounds and three points. He
hardly played during the preseason, but impressed O'Neill in the
last 10 days with his work ethic. ... Raptors forward Michael
Bradley will undergo surgery on his right knee and is out