Alston spat was taken 'step too far'

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

If Vince Carter and Sam Mitchell had been involved in a serious fight, don't you think Carter would be dead? Regardless, a sportsnet.ca report last night quoted Carter's mom, Michelle, as saying her son and Mitchell had a physical altercation a couple of months ago, when Vince still was a Raptor. The accusation had the local pro basketball team in a tizzy last night.

It was the fourth day in a row of wild turmoil in Raptorland. Who would have thought a single event eight minutes into a game last Tuesday in Cleveland would set off such a series of explosions?

Since Mitchell, the Raptors coach, decided to bench an irate Rafer Alston, the following has occurred:

- Mitchell and Alston had a confrontation at halftime.

ASKED FOR TRADE

- On Wednesday, frustrated by a lack of minutes and the distraction of the Mitchell-Alston saga, normally calm forward Eric Williams asked to be traded.

- Then last night, spurred by reports the Mitchell-Alston fracas had turned physical -- or at the very least that Mitchell had challenged Alston to a fight -- Michelle Carter decided to pile on from afar.

And to think, this unflattering flame was lit in Cleveland, where the lake once caught fire.

Now, after piecing together statements from numerous sources, what follows is what we believe to be the specific series of events in the Mitchell-Alston battle that sparked all this insanity:

The defensive game plan on Tuesday called for Alston to leave his man and double-team Cavs centre Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Alston did that for the first few minutes, but he grew frustrated when the player he considered to be his man hit a couple of jump shots.

Alston cursed toward the Raptors bench, saying he wasn't going to double anyone anymore. Alston essentially abandoned the game plan, which Mitchell saw as an act of open defiance that he could not let stand.

So, Mitchell yanked Alston off the floor and Alston remained on the bench for the rest of the half.

In the locker room, Mitchell and Alston got into a heated argument. At one point, Mitchell essentially accused Alston of turning the ball over on purpose.

Numerous sources have insisted the argument never turned physical, and we believe that.

So, did Mitchell challenge Alston to a fight? "No, guys, no," Mitchell said last night.

Mitchell may not have challenged Alston verbally. But according to sources, the coach removed his glasses and stepped toward Alston. Mitchell's body language unmistakably was aggressive.

Mitchell and Alston were nose-to-nose before being separated. Mitchell subsequently told Alston to stay in the locker room for the second half.

"Like all people, sometimes you may take it a step too far -- and guys, that happened," Mitchell admitted. "I hope it never happens to me again, but yeah, it may, because this is the passion you have to bring."

The other Raptors players are conflicted. They don't appreciate Mitchell's volatility. But they also believe Alston should have been suspended -- it would have been the second time this season -- for his actions on Tuesday, Mitchell's antics notwithstanding.

Could the past few days have been any more stormy? The turmoil not only is coming from the inside, but now the Raptors are being attacked from the outside, by the likes of Michelle Carter.

Michelle claimed her son tossed Mitchell on to a massage table. Mitchell insisted Carter jumped on him in a joking fashion. Raptors guard Alvin Williams -- who was in the room at the time -- backed up Mitchell.

And speaking of backing up, Michelle seemed to be doing it at breakneck speed in a TV interview last night.

Whoever you want to believe, these Raptors need to start wearing hockey helmets -- there ought to be a few available around the Air Canada Centre -- for protection not only from themselves, but from others.


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