(Vince Carter and BFF Shane Helms — soon to divorce?)

I always liked him, for one. And I will also maintain that, including LeBron, Jordan, DeJuan Wheat and several other big names (i.e. James, Jerome), he was the most dazzling player I ever saw perform in person. But Dave D’Allesandro today half-confirms what most Nets fans suspected once the Nets’ star-crossed season started heading south: that Vince Carter was probably done in New Jersey sooner than later. D’Allesandro soothsays off this sad, mumbly bit of GM-speak from the Nets’ resident John Edwards soundalike, Rod Thorn:

œHis situation right now is sort of fluid. I think from his perspective as well as ours. And he said to me before the season started he was never a free agent and he™d like to be a free agent “ that he liked it here, and chances are he™d end up staying here if the two sides can agree — but that he wanted to be a free agent. If you look at the free agent market, there are probably four teams that will be below the salary cap with the kind of money it would take to sign a player like Carter. Two of them already have outstanding two-guards — Milwaukee and Atlanta. So the realistic look at it is, there™s not many teams out there. But you and I know it only takes one. But I think this is something that will be resolved rather quickly, and we™ll see what happens.

Cool, confident, gently bubbly: that’s the voice of a GM whose team just gave up 120 points to a team made up almost entirely of guys who played for European clubs owned by Benetton last season. The Newark Star-Ledger’s answer to Curtis Armstrong continues directly:

Anyway, there are some very easy conclusions to draw from that fat paragraph:

1. Of course Vince will opt out. It™s the last big contract he™ll be able to get, and you want to grab it while you™re still averaging 24 points and the only two-guard competition on the market is Jerry Stackhouse and Mo Peterson.

2. That œas well as ours part. That™s fairly clear: Barring a miracle run in the next few months, Thorn can no longer hide his doubts that he wants to “ pardon the metaphor — continue this marriage, because the bottom line is that this union hasn™t exactly produced postseason success.

3. When free agency is pending, most management types express confidence that they™ll be able to get a deal done if they truly want to continue to build around a guy “ they rarely say, œWe™ll see what happens. …

4. And Thorn claims it will be resolved œrather quickly for one reason — he™s already got several sign-and-trade scenarios lined up, because that™s what every GM does to prepare for the moratorium between February and July.

Better than trading Jason Kidd for half the Lakers, hopefully, although that non-starter is more about New York sportswriters negotiating with each other.