His apology is a slam dunk

Rafer Alston offers up a public apology yesterday after serving a two-game suspension handed down...

Rafer Alston offers up a public apology yesterday after serving a two-game suspension handed down by the Raptors for storming out of a practice last week. (Toronto Sun/Michael Peake)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

Rafer Alston is sorry.

Sorry for walking out on his teammates, sorry for disappointing Raptors fans and sorry for causing another needless distraction.

The Raptors point guard returned to the team yesterday after serving a two-game suspension for bolting out of what he felt was a lackadaisical practice on Saturday. While he expects to lose his starting role to Milt Palacio for a while, Alston is hoping to redeem himself beginning tonight against the Washington Wizards at the Air Canada Centre.

"You feel bad because you let down a lot of people when you get suspended, not just the team, but a lot of fans who pay top dollar for these high-priced tickets at the Air Canada Centre," Alston, 28, said yesterday.

"I apologized to my teammates, I apologized to the coaches, I apologized to the organization. Hopefully, you look to move forward."

Alston said all the right things yesterday, including a clever response when asked if he agreed with the punishment.

"Two games? I thought it would have been more than that," he said.

"If I was running the team, I would have tried to ask the player to give me the money (Alston gave up more than $75,000 US during the suspension)."

Upon his return yesterday, Alston chatted with coach Sam Mitchell and general manager Rob Babcock for more than an hour and then gathered his teammates to make an apology.

"He does (feel bad) and you feel for him," said Palacio, who ran the team effectively during a come-from-behind 98-97 road win over the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night.

"But we welcomed him back with open arms. Things happen and everybody's human. You're able to make a mistake. As long he came back and apologized, you go on from here."

Alston described Saturday's practice as "a little lackadaisical, a little mediocre and a little too ordinary for a team that is trying to stay in the playoff hunt."

In the wake of an ugly loss against the Charlotte Bobcats a night earlier, Alston felt the practice should have been more intense.

Still, Alston said Saturday was the first and last time he will walk out of a practice.

"One of the things I have to deal with is not having so many emotional outbursts at practice," he said.

CONSEQUENCES

Alston certainly won't complain about coming off the bench.

"That's the consequence of your actions, you have to deal with it, you have to accept it, and when my name is called to go into the game, I'm going to run in there," he said.

Alston, who threatened to retire earlier this season and was fined $7,500 for verbally abusing an official during another game, stayed in Toronto during the suspension.

He came to the gym to shoot around and went out to some restaurants, where fans approached him.

"Some said, 'Can't wait to see you back out there.' Some said, 'Stop getting upset and so angry,' " Alston said.

"A lot of them hit a lot of things right on the nose."

Alston now has to prove he has learned his lesson.

"I know I made a mistake," he said. "I've made mistakes in the past and I have overcome them. I'm here to do the same thing."


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