Small steps for Alvin

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

The Dinosaur among the Raptors is only 31.

Alvin Williams is the last man standing, the senior Raptor in continuous service by virtue of the trade that sent him here from Portland in the Damon Stoudamire deal in 1998.

He has seen it all. The departure of Tracy McGrady, the rise and fall of Vince Carter, Antonio Davis, Butch Carter, Lenny Wilkens and Kevin O'Neill.

He was within earshot in 2000 when McGrady prophetically declared "this ship be sinking" and when Charles Oakley confounded everyone by declaring "Pimping ain't easy, pimping ain't dead, the 'hos are just scared."

On the eve of his seventh home opener with the Raptors, these are not the crowning days for Alvin Williams.

He missed all of last season with microfracture surgery on his right knee.

"Basically they poke little holes in your bones," Williams said. "That creates a type of bleeding that forms a surface that takes the place of cartilage."

"I didn't have the same injury," coach Sam Mitchell said when asked about the microfracture knee surgery he underwent as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. "Alvin had ankle problems and different things."

Williams has arthritis in both his left and right knees.

"The arthritis isn't that unusual but it will probably take a toll later," Williams said. "Right now with all the treatment it's under control."

He has endured three surgeries on a tattered left ankle.

"The ankle is what it is. It's restricted. Through exercise and treatment you just try to maintain it and get it better," Williams said.

The bills on Alvin Williams are coming due. He always has struggled on faulty pins and he played a ton under Lenny Wilkens, whom Williams greatly admires.

A more honest player than Alvin Williams never has trod the polished boards. Now his role is purposefully vague.

"I haven't decided on how much or how little everyone's going to play," Mitchell said when asked about Williams. "It's going to be how the game is going and if I need that person or not."

Vague works right now for Williams. He had one basket during the exhibition games. It will take him months, many months, to fully understand how much he can squeeze out of legs that are twice as old as the rest of him. The surgeons have assured him there is enough to work with, but using blood for cartilage doesn't signal a whole lot of promise.

"I think I have a nice amount of cartilage and support in my knee," he said. "They feel pretty good. Usually when you have the bone-on-bone experience, it's a lot of pain, a lot of aching. I don't feel any of that."

The Raptors missed Williams profoundly, on the floor where Rafer Alston floundered at point guard, and in the dressing room. Williams would have been the perfect tutor for Alston, a wildly emotional player who pulled himself out of the second half of one game after a conflict with Mitchell and even threatened to quit the NBA.

Alston's antics and statements from Vince Carter that seemed to imply he was dogging it in his final season led to a chaotic dressing room.

"Sometimes during the course of a tough season with newer guys and newer experiences, some things happen," Williams said.

"You've got to try to build a relationship where everyone is comfortable with each other. Last year there were some unfortunate incidents but that goes on in the course of the season."

For Williams to lead, he must play. Credibility is directly tied to minutes and minutes will be sparse for months, maybe forever.

In the back of his mind, Williams realizes he will be a different player.

"You'd love to be the same player you were before but then you have to find other ways to be effective. I may not be as quick or as fast, but you have to find other ways to be effective and I'm willing to do that.

"Experience and age becomes a part of your game."

Character already was there.


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