On a draft day when Cleveland made the biggest splash by trading for the Suns' Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando made a blockbuster move of its own in acquiring the Nets' Carter, an eight-time NBA All Star who grew up in Daytona Beach and lives in Orlando.
New Jersey also dealt forward Ryan Anderson to the Magic, who sent the Nets three players in return: Point guard Rafer Alston, shooting guard Courtney Lee and power forward Tony Battie.
The trade gives the Magic another star in a lineup that already includes Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis. The deal might also convince Hedo Turkoglu, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent on July 1, to remain with the Magic.
Orlando is hoping Carter, who has averaged 23.5 points over a 10-year pro career, will provide center Dwight Howard with a perimeter scorer who can create his own shot - something they lacked in losing the NBA finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.
It's also an indication the Magic believe their time is now.
"Vince gives us a veteran, go-to scoring presence, especially at the end of games," Orlando general manager Otis Smith said in a statement. "Our goal remains the same - to win a championship. Any time you can add an All-Star to help you reach your goals, you have to do it."
Carter found out about the trade at his basketball camp, adding he thought it was a joke at first.
"Every player hopes for an opportunity like this, to just once compete for an NBA championship," Carter said. "This a dream come true for me. Now I have a chance to win a championship."
The deal shows the Nets are planning for free agency before the 2010-11 season, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire can test the market. The trade gives New Jersey some $18 million in salary cap relief for the 2010-11 coming out season.
"I think everyone here is sad because everybody liked Vince," Nets president Rod Thorn said Thursday night. "But the reality of the situation is we have to do what is best for our franchise and move on from there."
Thorn admitted the Nets might take a step back in the wake of the trade, but he noted he really likes Lee.
"If you are going to trade a player of Carter's caliber, you want to make sure you get a young talent who has a chance to be very good."
In other Thursday trades:
- In exchange for sending O'Neal to Cleveland, Phoenix acquired center Ben Wallace, swingman Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round pick in the 2010 draft and cash.
- The Atlanta Hawks acquired guard Jamal Crawford from the Golden State Warriors for guards Acie Law and Speedy Claxton.
- Denver traded a future first-round draft pick to Minnesota for the rights to North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson, who the Timberwolves had selected at No. 18. The Nuggets, who lacked a first-round pick for the fourth straight year, landed Lawson in exchange for a future first-round pick they had acquired from Charlotte last year.
- The Knicks traded swingman Quentin Richardson and cash to Memphis for center Darko Milicic, and also acquired the rights to Toney Douglas, the No. 29 pick, from the Lakers for cash and a future second-round pick.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks swapped their draft picks from late in the first round. The Thunder will get 7-foot center B.J. Mullens from Ohio State for point guard Rodrigue Beaubois from Guadaloupe, plus a future second-round pick.
- The New Orleans Hornets acquired LSU guard Marcus Thornton, the 43rd pick by Miami, for two future second-round picks.
- The Houston Rockets acquired Central Florida guard Jermaine Taylor and Spanish guard Sergio Llull, purchasing the second-round picks of the Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets.
Besides clearing cap space, the Nets get a solid backup for point guard Devin Harris in Alston and a talent who showed flashes of stardom in Lee.
Lee, a rookie from Western Kentucky last season, was a late first-round pick in 2008 and turned out to be one of the Magic's few bright spots in recent drafts. Lee started 42 games and was a solid contributor for the Magic last season, averaging 8.4 points per game.
But the Magic were willing to give up Lee to acquire Carter and clear payroll.
"I thought they liked Courtney Lee, especially after the way he played in the finals," Miami forward Michael Beasley said at the Heat draft party. "So, so unexpected. ... Vince Carter, great player. I think him and Dwight Howard can do great things together. Vince Carter is a lot like Hedo Turkoglu, better in some sense. I think they can do great things together."
With Jameer Nelson already named the starting point guard for next season, the team was looking to move Alston - and his $5.25 million contract that ends after next season.
Alston was acquired at the trade deadline from the Houston Rockets after Nelson suffered what was then called a season-ending shoulder surgery. Alston's acquisition largely saved the Magic's season, but when Nelson was able to return for the finals, Alston complained about his minutes and the point guards never could find their rhythm.
The Magic's biggest cost-cutting move is parting ways with the 33-year-old Battie, who will make $6.2 million next season in the final year of his contract.
Carter's departure ends the era of the Nets' Big Three. Point guard Jason Kidd was traded to Dallas early in 2008 and Richard Jefferson was dealt to Milwaukee on draft day a year ago for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.
Carter, who was acquired from Toronto in December 2004, carried most of the offensive load for New Jersey last season, along with Harris and rookie center Brook Lopez.
Anderson, a 6-foot-10 forward who was the 21st pick overall in last year's draft, started 30 games and averaged 7.4 points and 4.7 rebounds.
A few hours after trading Carter, the Nets used the 11th pick in the draft to select Terrence Williams, a versatile 6-foot-6 small forward from Louisville.