The real deal with Vince
Think Vince Carter has a problem with Rob Babcock and Sam Mitchell? Think again. There's another man heading up the Raptors who Carter's not a fan of.
Vince Carter would like to continue playing for the Toronto Raptors -- but only if Richard Peddie and a couple of his front-office aides are fired.
That was the word Monday from one of Carter's closest friends, who contacted Sportsnet after numerous conversations with the team's star and his family.
"I want to make it perfectly clear that Vince has no problem at all with (new general manager) Rob Babcock or (new head coach) Sam Mitchell and that he is looking forward to playing for them," said Mississauga businessman Nav Bhatia, a Raptors season-ticket holder who has become so close with Carter that he was one of the few Canadians invited to the player's recent wedding in Florida.
"Vince loves Toronto and he loves the fans of Toronto. He has two condominiums in Toronto and he wants to live here for many, many more years. But he has serious problems playing for an organization that is run by Richard Peddie (the club's president and CEO). He has problems with (consultant) Jack McCloskey and (player-personnel director) Jim Kelly, too.
"Larry Tanenbaum (the Raptors' chairman) is fully aware of this. Larry asked me recently what would make Vince comfortable with the organization and I told him in no uncertain terms -- that he wants Peddie, McCloskey and Kelly gone. Now it's up to Larry and his co-owners to decide what they want to do."
Bhatia, who owns a car dealership and has never missed any of the Raptors' home games, said Carter is upset primarily with Peddie because of promises that he believes the club's boss failed to keep.
Bhatia revealed that, during a meeting in Toronto last April, Carter told Peddie that he felt the Raptors could rebound from a pair of dismal seasons if the club pursued two players in the off-season -- centre/forward Jamaal Magloire and point guard Steve Nash.
Bhatia also confirmed reports that Peddie had vowed during the April meeting to "keep Vince in the loop as far as the hiring of a general manager was going."
But Bhatia said members of Carter's family told him he was never informed about the Babcock hiring and didn't learn about it until several days after the appointment. In addition, Bhatia said Carter has been led to believe that the Raptors made no efforts to pursue Nash as a free agent -- he signed with the Phoenix Suns -- or obtain Magloire in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets. Bhatia said both he and Carter were given information that Magloire and Nash had interest in joining the Raptors.
"Vince was so upbeat in that meeting and after the meeting because he was under the impression that Peddie was going to do his best to upgrade the Raptors," Bhatia said. "Vince really thought there was going to be a good chance to get Magloire and Nash. He wanted them in Toronto because, as he told Peddie in the meeting, there was an obvious need to improve two positions -- the No. 1 position and the No. 5 position. He wanted Magloire and Nash because they were perfect for the positions. They're both all-stars and their friends of Vince's. The fact that they are also both Canadian would be good, he figured, because he recognized that would help the Raptors in terms of popularity in this country. He felt that the Raptors would at least go after one of Jamaal or Steve, but he now believes they haven't.
"As for the hiring of the GM, Peddie didn't have to say he would keep Vince informed. He just said he would. And Vince believed him -- until he found out after the fact that Babcock was hired. Vince suggested that Julius Erving be interviewed for the job. Well, Dr. J. arrived at the airport in Toronto, was in town briefly and was never brought to the Air Canada Centre or anything like that. That's what my information is. Vince doesn't think Dr. J. received a proper interview. It didn't show respect to either Vince or Dr. J., two guys most people consider basketball superstars."
Bhatia said Carter is also upset these days because he believes the consensus in the National Basketball Association is that "the Raptors are laughingstocks."
Bhatia added: "Vince doesn't speak out publicly against the organization. That's not his style. He's not like Iverson or McGrady or even Kobe. He's a team guy and he has respect for people. But he's lost that respect for Peddie and he doesn't think he could play for a team that is run by Peddie. Peddie's not a basketball man. He's good at selling the pop and the hot dogs and things like that, so it's understandable to Vince if Peddie's in charge of Maple Leaf Entertainment. But to keep him in charge of the Raptors' basketball team, when everyone in the NBA thinks the Raptors are a circus, that doesn't make sense. Put a basketball man in charge of the basketball team."
As for McCloskey and Kelly, Bhatia said: "Vince believes they've proven they're not good for their jobs and he also thinks they've been disrespectful of him. The bottom line is that he thinks they've shown him disrespect. And if you don't respect your $100-million man, then what does this say about how the organization treats or will treat the players of lesser value?"
Efforts by Sportsnet to reach Carter personally were unsuccessful Monday; he's on his honeymoon in Hawaii. Also, neither Tanenbaum nor Peddie were available to comment, but Bhatia believes Tannenbaum has been discussing, or plans to discuss, Carter's desires with his colleagues at the top levels of MLSE.
Bhatia also said Carter will arrive in Toronto on July 19 and will meet with the Raptors' brass in an effort to clear the air. Carter also will be in Toronto the rest of the month for his kids' camp and for his annual charity basketball game.