Mitchell plays it cool

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

ST. CATHARINES -- The joke at Raptors camp yesterday was that Rob Babcock had to trade Rafer Alston before head coach Sam Mitchell threw the volatile point guard over nearby Niagara Falls.

While acknowledging he had his problems with Alston last season, and that he had a say in Alston being traded to the Houston Rockets for Mike James, Mitchell insisted a deal was not made out of spite or worry over Alston's tendency to meltdown.

"I'm not going to talk about that, because it doesn't do either of us any good," said Mitchell, who clashed with Alston occasionally last season. "You don't do any deals in the NBA for personal reasons.

"I appreciate everything Rafer did for us, I really do. If Rafer would have been here this year, we would have made it work. There are no hidden agendas."

Babcock and Mitchell insisted trading Alston is not equivalent to throwing in the towel this season.

"You all have written us off after one practice," Mitchell said, adding he has faith that James can fill in for Alston and rookie Charlie Villanueva the same for forward Donyell Marshall.

"Don't write us off now," Mitchell said. "Charlie can put the ball in the basket. It will just take a little while to learn, but Charlie's going to be a good scorer. He can shoot the ball with range. He can put it on the floor. He's like a young Donyell, who can do more things."

Trading Alston to Houston leaves James as the club's starting point guard and Jose Calderon, an NBA rookie, as the No. 2. The Raps also are hoping veteran guard Alvin Williams, who missed last season after undergoing surgery on his right knee, will be able to play this season.

"He hasn't played in two years, so I don't think I should go to my room and start drawing up plays for Alvin Williams," Mitchell said.

"(But) we're going to give Alvin every opportunity to prove he can play.

"He deserves that much."

Williams worked out yesterday, but won't join the team for all-out scrimmages until next week.


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