It's a pain for Alvin

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

Veteran Raptors guard Alvin Williams looked somewhat out of place yesterday inside the Bob Davis Gymnasium at Brock University in St. Catharines.

While his teammates bopped around, brimming with nervous energy following the team's first training camp practice session, the longest-serving Raptor sat in the far corner of the gym, ice bags strapped to both knees.

It has been a tough couple of years for Williams, with all of his knee and ankle problems, and this season promises, unfortunately, to be more of the same.

Normally, training camp is a time for unbridled optimism, but the Philadelphia native is not kidding himself into believing his physical problems are a thing of the past.

When asked how he felt physically compared with training camps past, Williams replied without hesitating: "Worse."

"I have spots on my knee where I don't have any cartilage, so it's like bone on bone," he said.

"I just have to make sure I do all the other things the doctors tell me as far as stretching and strengthening my legs."

Williams missed 26 games in 2003-04 after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee -- the second season in a row he had missed more games than in the previous one.

At 30, Williams is one of the big question marks for the Raptors this season. He is undoubtedly one of the toughest hombres on the squad, having played at times when he was almost unable to walk. But as he gets older and his knees and ankles take more of a pounding, his future becomes cloudier and cloudier.

"Surgery is an option," Williams said, when asked about his right knee. "But the surgery that was suggested would put me out six months, I don't want to miss the season -- and there's no guarantee it would heal it."

One of the reasons general manager Rob Babcock acquired free-agent point guard Rafer Alston in the off-season was to take pressure off Williams. If the Raptors are deep anywhere, it's at guard, with Alston, Williams, Vince Carter, Jalen Rose (also a forward), Milt Palacio, Roger Mason Jr. and newcomer Norm Richardson.

Coach Sam Mitchell will be hard-pressed to keep everyone happy in the backcourt. But Williams said yesterday he is willing to do what's right for the team, even if that means not starting and playing fewer minutes.

"The addition of Rafer is good. They've been trying to bring in a (legitimate) point guard for seven years now," he said. "I'm used to it. He's my teammate, so I can't feel slighted. There's no ego thing, I'm not that type.

READY TO GO

"I don't know what (my role will be). My biggest focus is making sure my knee is healthy, so when my number is called, I'm ready to play.

"My whole attitude is the same since I got here ... I just want to play. It's just playing and helping the team win."


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