Rafer comes back

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

Tonight's game marks the first visit for volatile point guard Rafer Alston to Toronto since he was shipped to the Houston Rockets for Mike James on Oct. 4.

And while there were times last year when Toronto coach Sam Mitchell wanted to wrap his hands around Alston's neck, such as when he threatened to quit the team after a game in Boston, there are no hard feelings.

"Rafer's back healthy and I'm happy for him because he does love to play basketball," Mitchell said. "That's one thing I respect about Rafer. He practices hard everyday and he loves to practice. He comes in early and stays late."

Alston returned this week from a hairline fracture of the right fibula and has played well, although the trade seems to have turned out very well for Toronto. James is averaging 15.9 points and is shooting 45% from the field, while Alston is averaging 8.3 points and is shooting 38%. Both are averaging just over four assists per game.

At one point during the conversation about Alston, Mitchell mentioned that he loves all the guys on his team.

"There's not one guy on this team that I don't care about away from basketball," he said. "The toughest thing for me on a night-in and night-out basis is not giving some of the guys playing time, touches, minutes, things of that nature. Because I genuinely care about all of these guys."

The interview somehow got on to the topic of whether you can love something or someone too much, to which the coach suggested you can't. The reporter disagreed, pointing out that loving someone too much can lead to murder-suicide.

Mitchell took a long look at the scribe, shook his head and replied: "Who in their right mind thinks of murder/suicide?"

Apparently Raptors reporters do.

AROUND THE RIM

Forward Matt Bonner is shooting a stellar 44% (32-for-72) from three-point range after nailing two in three attempts on Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic.


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