Raps have to grow up, too

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:59 AM ET

The many contradictions of the troubled relationship between Rafer Alston and the Raptors expose the basketball operation as both illogical and naive.

That general manager Rob Babcock admits now that he was aware of Alston's flaws and had done the necessary diligence into the Rafer Madness of the past is reason to wonder why the team chose to make a long-term commitment to the point guard who majors in immaturity.

That Sam Mitchell insists now that Alston had to be suspended for conduct detrimental to the team because it's not about this year, it's about establishing an expectation and building a champion, raises even more questions.

If Alston has had three major meltdowns during his first 2 1/2 months as starting point guard in the NBA -- he is nearing record status in the area -- then what happens when the games really mean something? When the pressure is extreme?

Know this much: Rafer Alston may act like a kid but he's no kid. His birth certificate says he is 28 years old. If he doesn't know better now, when will he know? When you act like a 12-year-old trapped inside an 18-year-old's body, you make the wrong decisions and you make them too often.

Babcock insists this is all in the family. That Alston has taken on the role of troubled kid and management the caring parent. "You don't kick them out of the house, do you?" Babcock asked.

You don't. But you don't give them $29 million US guaranteed either with the keys to your offence when it's your butt on the line in the process.

One Raptors insider made this analogy yesterday when discussing the latest Alston saga. He compared Alston's single-minded, selfish, street-ball attitude as being similar to that of a recovering alcoholic. The alcoholic says he's clean and you believe him. You give him another chance to succeed, but with one slip up he's back in treatment again. You're not surprised when it happens because the battle is so difficult.

LACK OF JUDGMENT

Only alcoholism is a disease. Not passing the ball and throwing up three-pointers off the dribble is simply a lack of judgment.

And what the Raptors choose to do the next time they collide with Alston's childish, emotional outbursts is anyone's guess.

Sam Mitchell talks about building the kind of team that can be called a contender every year. Not just a one-shot deal. A San Antonio kind of team. But as he speaks of a champion, he speaks of building with Rafer Alston.

That is a basketball oxymoron. There is no evidence at this time to suggest one goes with the other.

After a lifetime of pratfalls -- college troubles, failed NBA stops, all the street-ball talk -- this was the great opportunity for Alston, the chance he never got anywhere else, a chance to bury his past and launch his future.

He never had the big money before or the opportunity to start at point guard and run his own offence.

And he seemed, at least with what he said, to relish what was afforded him.

Instead, he has slipped and embarrassed himself, embarrassed his team, embarrassed the very people who made the decision to re-form the Raptors around his flawed personality.

The time for Rafer Alston to grow up was yesterday. Expecting it to happen now is the Raptors' own version of throwing up a prayer.


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