Ailing Alvin will play it safe

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

An ailing Alvin Williams has asked out of the Raptors' pre-season opener tonight, according to head coach Sam Mitchell.

"Everybody's available except Alvin," said Mitchell, whose club will play host to the Philadelphia 76ers. "It's just something Alvin and I talked about. He wants to try to strengthen his knee. This is something he wants to do."

Williams, the longest-serving Raptor and a native of Philadelphia, has been bothered throughout training camp by significant pain in his right knee. Surgery is an option, but Williams would be out of action for six months -- in other words, the entire season -- and he understandably wants to leave that as a last resort.

"It wouldn't be fair for me (to discuss anything long-term), because I don't know how he feels," Mitchell said of Williams. "All I know right now is he wants to try to strengthen his knee.

"He could (play tonight), but then he won't be able to practise (tomorrow). So his thing was: 'Coach, let me take the time I need to work on my knee. Then we'll see how it feels practising every day, rather than practise one day, miss the next day, practise one day, miss the next day.'

"To Alvin's credit, he doesn't think that would be right, to just try to play in games and not practise. That's what he told me, and I respect him even more for it."

SIXER-GUN JUSTICE

There are some similarities between the Raptors and the Sixers, who are 1-0 in exhibition play following a 114-107 victory over the Washington Wizards at Duke University in Durham, N.C., on Tuesday. Both the Raptors and Sixers are trying to revive their stagnant offences with more up-tempo approaches this season.

"I think everybody can thrive in this offence," new Sixers coach Jim O'Brien told the Philadelphia Daily News. "We have a guy like Allen (Iverson) who can get anywhere he wants with his dribble. When guys start understanding each other in the passing game, we'll get much better offensively."

Much better than 114 points? Look out, world.

The Raptors and the Sixers will face each other again on Sunday in London, Ont.

Iverson is expected to be available to play in both contests, but this being the pre-season, there are no guarantees.


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