Young and restless

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is looking forward to putting the Rafer Alston controversy behind him...

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is looking forward to putting the Rafer Alston controversy behind him and getting on the court to play the Indiana Pacers tonight. (Toronto Sun/Michael Peake)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:09 PM ET

The Raptors have seen too much troubled water go under the bridge for one season.

But they're learning to swim, rather than sink, when controversy swamps them, as it has again the past week with three consecutive losses and the Rafer Alston suspension.

"That has been the motto for our season, 'put things behind you,' " an unruffled Chris Bosh said with a grin yesterday as the Raps headed for the airport and tonight's game against the Indiana Pacers.

"We have to keep going as the season goes on, no matter what happens."

Rafer Madness in town took a 48-hour respite, as he remains barred from practice and Toronto attempts to stop its losing ways this evening.

"The thing about pro sports is that there'll be ups and downs; every team has them, it's just how you deal with them," Jalen Rose said. "It brings out the true character of a team and a team that wants to win. Hopefully we find a way through this."

Coach Sam Mitchell, whose verbal exchange with point guard Alston at practice on Saturday led to the two-game suspension "for conduct detrimental to the team", made it clear the subject was off limits at the start of his media briefing yesterday.

"It's not a soap opera, let's talk about something else," Mitchell insisted. "We have a lot of things on our plate, a lot of things to worry about other than issues that don't concern us. We've got 11 or 12 guys who have to play (today), we've had two good practices and we're looking forward going into Indiana and trying to get a win.

"You play without (star) players all the time. It's just part of the game. I'm just looking forward getting back on the court and playing a competitive game."

That will include some new wrinkles necessitated by Alston's absence and the challenge of beating a Pacers' team that's looking to re-boot themselves after falling into a five-game losing streak.

"We're changing things," Mitchell said. "This will actually give Morris Peterson a chance to play some point guard and work on his ball handling and his decision making, which is always a good thing. He's done fine there.

"I expect a tough game (this evening). The Pacers will be hungry, looking at us as a chance to get a win. But if we go in and play as we've practised the last two days, we'll have a good game."

DONE HIS TIME

But look for Alston to be back in the headlines tomorrow when his sentence is lifted and he's expected back on court to practise for a home game Friday against Washington. Mitchell drew a parallel between Alston and Pacers point guard Jamaal Tinsley.

"If you look at Jamaal after his first year, they loved him, but the second and third year they wanted to trade him, they even benched him," Mitchell said of Tinsley, who is expected to miss tonight's game with a sprained foot.

"But he's like a lot of young men. He made the decision to change. Once he made the decision, wanted to get in shape, wanted to play more team-oriented basketball and understand the role of point guard, now he's one of the better point guards in the league."


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