Carter: 'I never bailed on the city'

TORONTO -- Vince Carter returned to Toronto for the first time since being traded, and insisted before Friday night's game that he didn't turn his back on the city.

"I never bailed on the city," said Carter, who demanded a trade less than halfway into a six-year, $94 million contract. "I have the utmost respect for the fans here. I remember back when the fans weren't quite sure when to cheer. I was here when it all started."

Carter scored 39 points in the Nets' 101-90 victory.

It's been almost four months since the Raptors dealt their disgruntled superstar to the New Jersey Nets, but Canadians let Carter hear it.

Additional security guards were posted by the Nets bench to protect Carter, who was once beloved but now reviled because he asked out and admitted he didn't push himself as hard as he should have in Toronto.

Carter said before Friday morning's shootaround that he needed a change of scenery after 6½ years in Toronto.

"It's like anybody else when you need a change of scenery. When you are not happy or you feel like you need to move on with your job, you are entitled to do so," he said.

The six-time All-Star said he wanted to finish his career in Canada, but grew frustrated with the losing and the franchise's inability to attract another top player.

"Now, I have another guy who can demand the attention on and off the court," Carter said of Jason Kidd. "That's what I always wanted."

Carter tried to recruit players, but said it was hard because they didn't know about Canada.

"Every player I ever tried to get here asked, 'Yeah, but what about the taxes? Is there a soul food restaurant?"' Carter said. "It seems funny, but it's the truth. It's a strain for a lot of guys because when they come here they're like, 'Man, there's nothing to watch on TV.' When I first got here I didn't know what curling was. I thought it was just a version of bowling."

With his Nets clinging to hopes of grabbing a playoff spot, Carter said he won't let his former fans bother him.

"If I let that get to me I'll be disappointing my team because of what we're playing for," Carter said.