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 got around to acknowledging last 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.
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 Jason Kidd.
Arenas is sidelined after a third knee operation in 1 1/2 years. Washington also is without center Brendan Haywood, who could miss the season after surgery on his right wrist.
Nets newcomer Yi Jianlian scored 17 points, and former Wizard Jarvis Hayes added 14. They went a combined 13-for-20.
One bright spot: Washington center Etan Thomas played in his first real NBA game since an April 30, 2007, playoff loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thomas missed all of last season after having open-heart surgery, but he looked fit and aggressive last night with 10 points and eight rebounds.
"He's back to his normal self," teammate Andray Blatche said.
Arenas has offered varying estimates for when he might be back, and coach Eddie 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."
Bucks 98, Thunder 87: : Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva each scored 20 and visiting Milwaukee spoiled the debut of Oklahoma City, which moved from Seattle in the offseason, before a sellout crowd of 19,136.
Raptors 95, 76ers 84: : Chris Bosh had 27 points and 11 rebounds to help visiting Toronto beat Philadelphia. Jermaine O'Neal added 17 and Jason Kapono had 15 for the Raptors. Many in the sparse crowd were wearing Phillies attire.
Timberwolves 98, Kings 96: : Rookie Kevin Love made an impressive debut with 12 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes and Al Jefferson had 21 points and 10 rebounds to help host Minnesota beat rebuilding Sacramento.