It's not even January and the Detroit Pistons are preparing to face Vince Carter for the third time this season. Carter, one of the leading All-Star vote-getters at small forward...

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It’s not even January and the Detroit Pistons are preparing to face Vince Carter for the third time this season.


Carter, one of the leading All-Star vote-getters at small forward in the Eastern Conference, is expected to make his debut with the New Jersey Nets on tonight against the Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Game time is a 4:30 p.m.


Carter was last at The Palace on Dec. 8 with the Toronto Raptors. He injured his left Achilles in that game and left in the third quarter of the Pistons’ 90-86 overtime victory. He was placed on the injured list Dec. 10. A week later, he was traded to the Nets for Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams and Eric Williams and two future first-round draft picks.


Carter said that he has had problems with his Achilles for the past three years. He has practiced the last seven days without pain in the Achilles and all indications are that he’ll play tonight.


Before he went on the injured list Carter was averaging 15.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 30.4 minutes for the Raptors.


With the addition of Carter, Jason Kidd back from a knee injury and Richard Jefferson playing well, the Nets are hoping to make a run in the Atlantic Division with an up-tempo game.


“Vince is a proven All-Star who brings a unique dynamic to any team of which he is a member,” Nets president Rod Thorn said. “Vince’s ability to run the floor fits in very well with our desired style of play and his ability to create his own shot will elevate the productivity of our half-court offense.”


New Jersey is 9-16, but it’s not because of Jefferson. The 6-foot-7 forward is eighth in the league in scoring at 23.4 points per game.


Shaq’s return to L.A. draws big rating


Shaq vs. Kobe drew the highest rating in six years for a regular-season NBA game.


The overnight rating for the Miami Heat’s 104-102 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on ABC on Christmas Day was 8.0. That was the highest since February 1998, when Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls against the Lakers on NBC.


Saturday’s game featured Shaquille O’Neal’s much-ballyhooed first game against the Lakers since being traded to the Heat last summer. O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were teammates for eight chaotic seasons with the Lakers. Despite their tense relationship, the Lakers won three championships and reached the NBA Finals a fourth time during their last five years together.


O’Neal demanded a trade three days after the Lakers were beaten by the Detroit Pistons in the Finals last June. Phil Jackson was told the same day his services as coach were no longer desired. Bryant, meanwhile, signed a seven-year, $136.4 million contract to stay.


O’Neal had 24 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 2:15 left in regulation. Bryant had a season-high 42 points.


Overnight ratings measure the 55 largest television markets, covering about 70 percent of the United States. The rating is the percentage of all homes with televisions, whether or not they are in use.




Notes


* Denver Nuggets F Carmelo Anthony missed his fourth consecutive game because of a sprained left ankle, and he might not play until the end of the week.


Anthony went through non-contact drills with the team on Friday, but Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said he wasn’t ready to go against Dallas yesterday and would be doubtful tonight at Golden State.


Denver’s next game after that is Friday at home against Philadelphia.


* The Washington Wizards placed G Laron Profit on the injured list with a strained left foot and activated G Steve Blake.


* The Cleveland Cavaliers activated F/C Robert Traylor from the IL, and placed F/C Scott Williams (left knee patella tendinitis) on the IL.


* G Derek Fisher was activated from the IL by the Golden State Warriors after missing seven games because of a sprained right knee. To make room for Fisher, the Warriors placed G Luis Flores on the IL with a strained right hamstring.