Raptors look to Rafer

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:48 AM ET

In the short term at least, the Raptors have to be Rafer Alston's team.

It is hoped the Raptors eventually will be Chris Bosh's team, as long as Bosh decides to re-sign long-term. His first opportunity to do so will come at the end of next season.

That's not meant to bring everybody down with memories of the emotional and awkward re-signing overtures made by the Raptors to Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter.

Thus is the business of sports.

Regardless, with Carter having been traded less than a week ago, and Bosh still early in his second NBA campaign, the Raptors are in a transition period.

Given that, more responsibility naturally falls to the starting point guard.

"Yeah, of course," Alston said when asked if he feels there's more pressure on him right now. "But I have to accept it and work with it and find a way to get it going, and get the new guys going."

The new guys are Eric Williams and Aaron Williams, both of whom made their debuts in a 114-102 loss to the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center on Monday.

"It's going to be tough now with the stretch we have here," Alston said.

"We have one more game before the Christmas break (tonight at home against the Utah Jazz), and then we come back with three road games, so we have to find a way.

"We don't have much practice time, so we're going to have to find a way to get broken in. I tell those (new) guys, 'Just remember your play, and we'll help you out with the other plays.' "

Alston's contributions have been a tad inconsistent lately, and he knows it.

He started the season strongly, but defences are more aware of him now.

His running lanes are being cut off more quickly and his shots are being rushed.

His shooting touch, by the way, is either very on or way off, depending upon the positioning of the moon.

And a glaring statistic from the Houston game that had nothing to do with missed shots did not sit well with Alston, either: In 31 minutes of court time, he had only one assist.

"It's tough," Alston said of his recent performances. "I'm not shooting the ball particularly well. I'm getting the same shots every night, the same looks. That's killing us.

"That's the shooter I am. I can go 8-for-10 one night, then the next night go 1-for-11. So I just have to stay with it, keep working on it, and get some extra shots in before and after practice."

It has been almost three weeks since Alston's infamous meltdown in Boston. During the third quarter of a game against the Celtics, Alston was assessed a technical foul by the officials and refused to calm down, to the point that Raptors coach Sam Mitchell strongly suggested Alston make his way back to the locker room if he couldn't get a grip.

After the game, Alston was near tears as he basically threatened to retire, saying he was tired of being the bad guy in battles with his teammates and coaches.

HAPPIER

The retirement threat wasn't serious, of course, and Alston says he is keeping things in better perspective now.

"Oh yeah, definitely," Alston said when asked if he's a happier person today than he was three weeks ago. " I'm never happy about a loss, though.

"You always wish you could have contributed more. That's the competitive nature in all of us, that you want to give more and do more."

If Alston wants to give more and do more, the Raptors will welcome it, now more than ever.


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