A crying shame

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:12 PM ET

Rafer Alston was teary-eyed as he walked out of Gund Arena in street clothes with five minutes to play in the fourth quarter last night.

He was surrounded by an army of security men and Raptors team personnel as he exited, following a halftime confrontation with coach Sam Mitchell.

A reporter got in one question as Alston passed, wiping his eyes.

"Rafer, are you all right?"

Alston's one-word answer, barely above a whisper, carried the weight of a novel.

"No."

There were rumours throughout the arena following the Raptors' 104-91 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers that the argument between Mitchell and Alston had turned physical, but Mitchell flatly denied that. Nonetheless, the showdown was serious enough that Alston did not leave the locker room when the second half began. Raptors general manager Rob Babcock also remained in the locker room with Alston for a while.

The coach said he expects Alston to be in the starting lineup tonight when the Raptors face the Milwaukee Bucks at the Air Canada Centre.

"Rafer and I are struggling a little bit with some basketball things and I wasn't planning on playing him in the second half," said Mitchell, who had yanked Alston eight minutes into the first quarter after Alston had committed three turnovers.

"It's just some things he and I have to work out. We have to learn to come to some common ground about some things. Rafer is determined in his way and I'm determined in my way."

Alston recently was suspended for two games by the Raptors after he walked out of a practice. Alston was contrite upon his return from the suspension, claiming he had learned a lesson about keeping his emotions in check.

Mitchell said he did not anticipate Alston being suspended again following the incident last night, although he did not elaborate on exactly what had happened.

"There wasn't anything physical," was all Mitchell would say.

TIGHT-LIPPED

Raptors swingman Jalen Rose was equally tight-lipped.

"I'm not going to comment on anything except what happened out there in the game," said Rose, who led the Raptors with 21 points. "I'm pretty sure we're going to have enough people with big enough mouths that eventually the story will leak about what happened, but I'm not going to be the person and today is not going to be the day."

Well, regardless of what exactly happened, it remains significant that something did. Again. Another showdown between Mitchell and Alston.

After Alston had been pulled from the game, he stayed on the bench through to the end of the second quarter, but it was easy to tell by the look on his face and the way he was whispering and complaining to some of his teammates that he wasn't happy about not playing.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

The situation turned downright suspicious when Alston did not come out to the bench area for the second half. He remained in the Raptors locker room behind closed doors until he was ushered out with five minutes to go.

All things considered, it was one of those nights when the Raptors would have been better off had they just stayed home.

They're 4-21 away from Toronto this season, and they just aren't getting any better at being the visiting team, physically, mentally or emotionally.

The Raptors dropped to 20-29 with the loss, while the Cavs improved to 28-19.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 23 points to lead Cleveland, while LeBron James had 15 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.


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