WASHINGTON -- After his New Jersey Nets opened the season by beating the Washington Wizards 95-85 behind Vince Carter's 21 points, coach Lawrence Frank praised all of his players and talked about how guys who didn't even get in helped by being "supportive."
Eventually, Frank did get around to acknowledging Wednesday night what everyone knows about these new-look Nets, saying, "Vince was the hub for us."
Carter -- whose teammates elected him the Nets' captain, Frank announced before the game -- scored 15 in the second half. That included a 16-foot fadeaway jumper over Caron Butler with a minute left to put the visitors ahead 90-82 and effectively settle a back-and-forth game.
"We showed a lot of poise," said Carter, who had six assists. "The young guys, I told them: 'Play the game because you love it. Have fun. Let the game come to you. If you make a mistake, forget it, don't compound it.'"
These are teams that took very different approaches this offseason. The Wizards essentially stayed pat, re-signing All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison to big contracts, while the Nets continued an overhaul that began when they traded away Jason Kidd.
Arenas is sidelined after a third knee operation in 1½ years. Washington is also without center Brendan Haywood, who could miss the season after surgery on his right wrist.
The Nets returned only one starter from last season's opening-night roster: Carter, of course. Overall, only three current players -- Carter, Josh Boone and Sean Williams -- were on the roster at the start of last season, the fewest number of holdovers in franchise history.
That is why Frank installed less than half of his offense so far.
"We're not going to be a finished product now," the coach said. "This is going to be an evolving thing -- clean up and improve and continue to put in things whenever the group is ready for it. We have hardly anything in."
Still, on this night, it was enough.
Newcomer Yi Jianlian scored 17 points, and former Wizards player Jarvis Hayes added 14. They went a combined 13-for-20. Three draft picks made NBA debuts: Brook Lopez (eight points, eight rebounds), Ryan Anderson (five points, three rebounds, two assists) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (two assists).
"We feel we have great depth," Frank said. "There's no fall-off in a lot of positions, so there's no reason to pace yourself."
It all revolves around Carter.
"He just had it going," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "You can't defend him with one guy."
Six Wizards scored in double figures, but Jordan wasn't pleased by what he called a lack of energy from his players. Jamison and Butler shot 9-for-29 and totaled 27 points.
"You've got to get your main guys to put the stamp on the game, just like Vince Carter did. Just like Yi did. They're their top guys," Jordan said. "And our top guys had to put a stamp on the game, and they didn't do it."
One bright spot: Washington center Etan Thomas played in his first real NBA game since an April 30, 2007, playoff loss to Cleveland. Thomas missed all of last season after having open-heart surgery, but he looked fit and aggressive Wednesday with 10 points and eight rebounds.
"He's back to his normal self," teammate Andray Blatche said.
When Arenas is healthy, he is the Wizards' top scorer, most creative player and go-to option when they need a buzzer-beater. They certainly could have used him while managing to score only one field goal in the last six minutes Wednesday.
Overall, Washington made only 37 percent of its field-goal attempts and 67 percent of its free throws.
"That's a killer," said Antonio Daniels, who is filling in for Arenas in the starting lineup.
Arenas has offered varying estimates for when he might be back, and Jordan was vague.
"No timetable. Due process. He's on course. He's disciplined about it. He's diligent about it," Jordan said. "And we'll just have to see as it goes along."
When Blatche sauntered into the Wizards locker room before the game with a fresh haircut, Stevenson recognized the old-school 'do right away, labeling it "The Shawn Kemp." ... Washington had six turnovers and shot 5-for-17 in the fourth quarter.
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