EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Vince Carter's reason for attending most of the August and September voluntary workouts with the New Jersey Nets had nothing to do with him being a big believer in retooling.
Far from it. He showed up because he thinks the team can be better right now.
The lone remaining member of the team's ``Big Three'' after the trades of Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, Carter believes the new-look Nets will surprise people this season and can make the playoffs.
``I think this is a year to just get back to where we were,'' Carter said Friday at the team's annual media day. ``Sitting out of the playoffs wasn't fun. I think we had the ability to (make the playoffs) last year regardless of what happened through the year.
``We still gave ourselves a chance to win. Maybe our desire wasn't there,'' he added. ``I don't know. It was a tough year. It is still a reachable goal, the playoffs, and this year it is our goal to make the playoffs.''
r recovered in posting a 34-48 record and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
The season was marked by the trade of the disgruntled Kidd to Dallas for Devin Harris in February, and a further breakup of the team in June when Jefferson was dealt to Milwaukee for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.
Nenad Krstic, Bostjan Nachbar, Marcus Williams and Jason Collins also left either during or after the season, leaving only three players who reported for training camp last season - Carter, Josh Boone and Sean Williams.
Carter and Harris are the 1-2 backbone of the Nets this season.
``Spots three through 15 are wide open,'' coach Lawrence Frank said.
Veterans Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes, Eduardo Najera and Simmons have been added to the roster and will fight for playing time with Yi, Boone, Williams, Stromile Swift and draft picks Brook Lopez, Brian Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts.
The new look convinced Carter to attend most of the voluntary workouts.
``It was important to establish my dedication to the team and the new guys, especially,'' Carter said. ``The new vets know I want to win. Regardless of what is being said or what people think, I want to win. My mentality is we have a good enough team to win basketball games.''
last season.
``I am just going to come play,'' Carter said. ``I think saying I have to do a little more of this and that, I don't believe that. I have to come and play and stay on top of my game just like everybody else. Regardless of whether I am playing my A-plus game each night, everybody has to bring that A-plus game and it is understood.''
Frank has turned the Nets practice facility into something of a high school gym, with posters promoting the team's core values, the way to play and the culture the team needs to win.
``It is not about one player, it is not about the big three, it's about being a team, because that's going to be our recipe to be successful,'' Frank said. ``We can't focus on who's not here. We can't focus on one guy like Vince and he's got to do everything. It's about everyone doing their part and doing it together.''
Harris is going to be the focal point of the Nets' dribble-drive-attack philosophy, an offense which gets him in the lane and tries to create havoc.
``There is no pressure, especially with a lot of young guys,'' Harris said. ``We can relax and play. Obviously the expectations are low but that means the rewards will be greater.''
The Nets will be without Yi and Dooling for a week to 10 days because of ankle injuries sustained this week. The injuries are not considered serious.
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