Much ado about a little something

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

You can make too big a deal of something.

You can read too much into something.

They are not the same thing.

The suspension of point guard Rafer Alston for two games by the Raptors this week definitely was a big deal.

Any time an NBA team suspends one of its starters in the middle of a season, it's significant.

But way, way, way too much was read into the incident.

After an ugly loss to the expansion Charlotte Bobcats a week ago, Alston got irked the next day during what he perceived to be a "lackadaisical" practice.

So he stormed out.

He didn't slug anyone, or shoot anyone, or demolish anything, or get caught taking illegal drugs. He just got mad and made a bad, almost child-like, choice to take his ball and go home.

Come on, folks.

All of us who have played on any type of sports team in our lives -- as children, adolescents or adults -- understand how volatile it can be inside a locker room or a practice facility.

We sometimes play for years beside guys who are jerks, or drive us nuts, or are emotionally deformed, or have elevated saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to an art form.

There can be heated arguments every day, about everything from playing time to passing the ball to what the funniest sitcom is. But that does not necessarily mean the various players and coaches can't live with each other, or that the team is coming unglued.

Yesterday, Alston was back on the practice court with the Raptors, who went 1-1 in his absence. The way Alston made it sound, the biggest fight he'll face during the next few days won't be with a coach, a teammate or even an opponent, but with his mother.

"My mom's on her way (to Toronto) with a big belt and an extension cord," a contrite Alston said. "She told Rob (Babcock, Raptors general manager) that she's bringing a belt, an extension cord and a hammer, so you'll understand if I can't sit down."

Speaking of sitting down, Alston likely won't be among the starters tonight when the Raptors play host to the Washington Wizards. Regardless, the atmosphere yesterday was one of forgiveness and acceptance.

The Raptors forgave Alston.

And Alston has accepted he has some anger-management issues.

LOBOTOMIZE

But the last thing the Raptors should do is lobotomize Alston to the point that he loses his passion and his propensity to be a punk -- and we're using the term "punk" in a complimentary way.

For years, especially during the Vince Carter era, Raptors fans lamented that the team had too many nice guys.

No one took losses personally.

No one got mad.

Well, Rafer Alston gets mad.

Coach Sam Mitchell gets mad.

They both want to win, but they're not always in perfect agreement on how to achieve that.

The price of having people who care is the odd dust-up. The Raptors are not ready to give up on Rafer Alston, and vice versa.

"That's the first time I've left a practice ... ever," Alston said.

"And it's going to be the last."

Be that as it may, it would be in the Raptors' best interests if Alston and the other players allow themselves to get mad on occasion, as long as they channel it toward good and not evil.

Players fight with coaches sometimes. Players fight with players sometimes. It's not a great mystery to be solved or a code to be cracked.

The suspension of Alston was big.

But it wasn't deep.


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