Feeling warm, fuzzy

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell (pictured) was actually seen embracing guard Rafer Alston after their...

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell (pictured) was actually seen embracing guard Rafer Alston after their victory over the Clippers on Sunday. (Toronto Sun/Dave Thomas)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Cupid's arrow apparently touched down in the Raptors dressing room on Valentine's Day.

Coming off a week of altercations, trade demands and wild accusations from Vince Carter's mother, the Raptors appeared to be a tight, functional team yesterday.

Amazing what a win -- even one against the reeling Los Angles Clippers on Sunday -- can do for a shaky squad.

Reporters trying to make an issue out of Jalen Rose's fourth-quarter benching in the 109-106 win discovered all seemed cool between player and coach yesterday.

NO HARD FEELINGS

"We (Rose and coach Sam Mitchell) talked about it," Rose said. "He told me basically to keep doing what I'm doing. He appreciates the way I'm trying to lead these guys.

"I guess I'm an example of the gift and the curse sometimes. But there have been a lot of things going on outside of basketball that have been a distraction to this team and I'm going to make it my purpose to not be one."

Meanwhile, the relationship between Mitchell and starting point guard Rafer Alston seems to be improving, as evidenced by a post-game embrace Sunday. Alston, escorted out of the arena by security guards a week ago in Cleveland after a dispute with Mitchell, took a hefty 16 shots Sunday, which might have caused friction in previous games.

But with Mitchell putting Alston and fellow point guard Milt Palacio on the floor together recently, Alston becomes more of a shooting guard and the coach doesn't mind if he becomes a focal point of the offence.

"I thought (Alston) used good judgement," Mitchell said. "To start the game, he wasn't shooting that much and he was passing the ball and everybody was scoring. In the third quarter, he still was passing the ball, but other guys weren't scoring. When we went to a small lineup, I did it with the idea of making him be more aggressive and giving him more opportunities."

With the NBA trade deadline coming up next Thursday, more drama is bound to unfold in Raptorland. But Rose understands the business and a smile came to his face when he was asked about his future.

"I'm pretty sure my name is going to be in every rumour or every other phone call," he said.

Yesterday, however, was all about love.

"It's Valentine's Day," Rose said. "Kiss your favourite Jalen Rose. Females only."

His teammates had similar thoughts.

"It's Valentine's Day," Morris Peterson said, "so my philosophy is make love, not war."

It's a novel concept for a Raptors team that plays its final game before the all-star break tomorrow night against the Chicago Bulls at the Air Canada Centre.


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