NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -Vince Carter opted out of the final year of a contract with the New Jersey Nets that would have paid the All-Star guard $16.3 million this coming season.
Nets' President Rod Thorn said Saturday the team was informed Friday that Carter would test the free agent market, but he remained optimistic the 30-year-old swingman would return next season.
``Unless he's changed his mind, we're hoping he's back,'' Thorn told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. ``He said he wants to return and we've always said we wanted him back.''
The two sides have talked about a contract for the past month, and they are close to an agreement on a four-year deal worth more than $60 million.
Any new contract could not be signed until July 11. If the two sides reach an agreement, Thorn said the team is prohibited from announcing the deal until then.
Kurt Schoeppler, Carter's agent, has not returned telephone calls left at his Cleveland office since the negotiations began. He did not return a call on Saturday.
Carter averaged team-highs of 25.2 points in the regular season and 22.3 for the postseason.
If there is a knock on Carter, who will be entering his 10th season, it's his failure to step up in the playoffs. He shot less than 40 percent from the field in the postseason and he made several big mistakes.
Carter turned the ball over in the closing seconds of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against Cleveland with the Nets down two points and 2-1 in the series. He also was somewhat of a no-show for the deciding Game 6, scoring 11 points while having more turnovers (5) than baskets (4).
The other potential free agent the Nets would like to lock up is center Mikki Moore, who took over the starting job after Nenad Krstic was lost in December with a knee injury.
Moore averaged career-bests of 9.8 points and 5.1 rebounds while leading the league in field goal percentage .609.

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