Rafer notices the difference

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

HOUSTON -- From his vantage point in the Houston Rockets trainer's room, the unpredictable Rafer Alston likes what he sees.

It wasn't always that way in Toronto.

The injured point guard, who was shipped to the Rockets for Mike James on the first day of training camp after a distraction-filled first year with the Raptors, chose his words carefully when asked about his old team yesterday. But his comments about his current home spoke volumes.

"It's a major difference," said Alston, who has missed the past 16 games, including a game last night against the Raptors, with a hairline fracture of his right fibula. "We work hard. We're all on the same page. It helps to have veteran guys that have been through the wars and understand what it takes to win, what it takes to get back to the playoffs, what it takes to win in the playoffs and what it takes to help bring along young guys."

And what about the Raptors?

"You've got a guy like Chris Bosh and (Joey) Graham and (Charlie) Villanueva," Alston said. "You might want to surround them with guys like we have here. You surround those guys with a (David) Wesley, (Tracy) McGrady, maybe Yao (Ming), Juwan Howard, Jon Barry, Dikembe (Mutombo).

"You're talking about guys who have spent tons of games being through tough battles and tough wars. They know how to get through things, especially when times are rough."

Of course, the Raptors barely got through last season with Alston at the helm. He threatened to retire, walked out of a practice, was escorted out of the arena in Cleveland after a verbal confrontation with Sam Mitchell ... the list goes on.

"I was treated fairly by them," Alston said. "I can't say it's unfair. I mean, six-year contract."

Alston, who was "shocked" by the trade after signing his six-year deal with the Raptors the previous summer, wouldn't bite when asked if he is better off being out of Toronto.

"I don't know," he said. "I wanted to come back and work it out. By no stretch do I think Sam is a bad person or (general manager Rob) Babcock is a bad person. I don't think they think I'm a bad person. People have their opinions about people's jobs."

Alston, who has shot 32.3% from the field in just eight games for the Rockets, will always have mixed emotions about his wild season with the Raptors.

"I had happy moments, I had sad moments," he said. "I had one of the finest seasons in my NBA career statistics-wise. It was a fun place for me to play. I was enjoying the city.

"The sad things were the incidents. You always think: 'What if we did things this way or did this that way?'"


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