Rafer getting too emotional

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

Sam Mitchell and Rafer Alston are destined to clash on occasion because they are chips off the same block.

They are both stubborn. They are both loud-mouths. They are both emotional and passionate. That is a big part of what the organization likes about them.

But things reached a new level yesterday when the Raptors announced they had suspended Alston, their starting point guard, for two games because of "conduct detrimental to the team."

Mitchell, the club's head coach, and Alston got into an argument during practice on Saturday and Alston walked out of the practice facility. Mitchell went to Raptors general manager Rob Babcock and it was decided Alston had to be punished.

"It was a joint decision, between Sam and myself," Babcock said.

Mitchell and Alston have argued before, but tension had been building for weeks, not only between the coach and the point guard, but between the point guard and some of the other Raptors, too. It centres on the notion that Alston shoots too much for a point guard, and that if a rival point man scores on Alston, the competitive Alston often will go one-on-one with that opponent on the Raptors' next offensive possession.

On Friday in Charlotte, Mitchell and Alston exchanged icy stares during the Raptors' loss to the expansion Bobcats.

Then came Saturday's blowup, and Alston sat out yesterday as the Raptors were humiliated 123-105 by the visiting Phoenix Suns. Alston also will miss the game at Indiana on Wednesday.

You'll recall that back in December, Alston threatened to retire after an ugly game in Boston, during which Mitchell told Alston to go back to the locker room if he couldn't control his emotions.

That's what this is about: Emotional control. Mitchell thinks Alston needs more of it, even though Mitchell admittedly has struggled in this area.

"Hey, I was driving down the street today and a guy comes up to my car and asks for money. And I was going to give him some money, but the light changed," Mitchell said. "He recognized who I was and he cursed me out, and at the end he told me it still was a bleepin' hockey town, and f--- the Raptors.

"Two years ago, I would have put my car in park, got out and beat the crap out of him. That was me two years ago, seriously. Things like that p--- me off.

"But I realized he was asking me for money, and he was standing in the cold with a sign saying he was hungry and I was driving by, so who really has it bad? I just let it go. But two years ago, I would have been tempted not to take it as well."

Only two years ago? Mitchell is 41. Hopefully that doesn't mean the 28-year-old Alston has until age 39 to rein in his wilder emotional tendencies.

Last summer the Raptors signed Alston to a lucrative long-term contract, so they have pegged him as their point guard of the present and the future. So Mitchell, Alston and the other Raptors are going to have to come to an agreement on what exactly the starting point guard's role should be.

At the very least, Mitchell must understand what goes through the volatile Alston's head.

'UNDERSTAND IT'

"Well, I understand it, but you still have to control yourself," Mitchell said. "All you guys, if I would have gone out and hit (the man who cursed at Mitchell), everybody in here could understand that. But it wouldn't have been right. The appropriate response for me would not be to get out, stop traffic, put my car in park and hit this guy.

"It would have felt good, trust me. But all it would do is compound the problem."

The question now is: Will Alston's suspension fix the problem, or compound it?


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