Vince Carter's strained left Achilles tendon will keep him from playing tonight when the New Jersey Nets face the Charlotte Bobcats. But Carter can't wait to play for his new team...

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FORT MILL, S.C. — Vince Carter’s strained left Achilles tendon will keep him from playing tonight when the New Jersey Nets face the Charlotte Bobcats.

But Carter can’t wait to play for his new team and prove he hasn’t lost a step or an inch on his vertical jump.

“I’m going to make a lot of people eat their words when it’s time,” the former Toronto Raptor said after his first practice with the Nets. “Don’t be my friend later. If you hate me now, hate me later. I don’t mind.”

Carter was traded from Toronto to New Jersey on Friday for Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, Alonzo Mourning and two conditional first-round picks. The deal was finalized yesterday, when the players passed their physicals. The Raptors waived the physical for Mourning, who probably will be bought out of his contract.

For the 27-year-old Carter, this is a new beginning after 6-1/2 seasons in Toronto, where he was the face of the franchise and the person who took the heat when the Raptors didn’t play well or when he didn’t carry them to victories.

“My whole goal was to take the pressure off of everybody else,” Carter said. “I could shoulder the blame.”

Carter’s role with New Jersey will be much different. The Nets are Jason Kidd’s team first, then Richard Jefferson’s. That doesn’t bother Carter, a five-time All-Star.

“I’m happy with it,” Carter said. “I’m just there to be that other guy, that third guy to help out. Now who are you going to worry about more? It’s going to be fun.”

For the time being, no one will be worrying about Carter. He also doesn’t expect to play tomorrow against the Cleveland Cavaliers. A more realistic date for his Nets’ debut is Monday at Detroit.

“It’s feeling good,” Carter said of the injury. “But I’m not going to rush it.”

Snow apologizes for squabble

CLEVELAND — Eric Snow apologized yesterday for his part in a heated exchange with Cleveland coach Paul Silas, who suspended the well-respected Snow for one game without pay after their clash in Detroit last week.

“He’s the coach,” Snow said. “Everybody gets upset when they come out of the game, but there’s no need to show frustration.”

The Snow-Silas confrontation began when Cleveland’s second-year coach pulled Snow from the game after an eight-second violation. Silas was upset that Snow hadn’t taken control of the floor, and Silas sent in Jeff McInnis to replace him.

Snow cursed in Silas’ direction as he walked toward Cleveland’s bench. Silas angrily confronted a seated Snow before ordering him to the locker room for the rest of the first half.

Snow returned to the bench after halftime but did not play.

On Saturday, Silas suspended Snow for one game, docking him one game’s paycheck — about $54,000 — and ending his streak 248 consecutive games played.

Snow, regarded as one of the NBA’s model players, said he and Silas have patched up their differences.

“We’re moving on,” said the 31-year-old former Sonic. “Things happen, unfortunately. I apologize to Coach. I apologize to the fans and the team, so there is no need to dwell on it. It’s an unfortunate incident. It was a misunderstanding. But he’s still the coach, and he’s still allowed to make the decisions that he wants to make. And players got to live with it.”

Silas said his relationship with Snow won’t be affected by their quarrel.

“He’s one of my players, and I love all of my players,” he said. “I look at them as my kids and in any family relationship you’re going to have problems. You deal with them, you get them over with and you go on.”


• Los Angeles Clippers guard Kerry Kittles will be sidelined for at least two weeks because of a disk problem in his lower back. The 30-year-old, acquired from New Jersey in July for a future second-round draft pick, has played in just five games for the Clippers.

Charles Haddad, a 21-year-old Pistons fan who was charged with trespassing during the brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills, filed suit yesterday against the Indiana Pacers and players Jermaine O’Neal and Anthony Johnson.

O’Neal and Johnson already face assault and battery charges for allegedly attacking Haddad during the Nov. 19 fight between Pistons fans and Pacers players. Haddad was charged with violating an Auburn Hills ordinance barring fans from the court.