Verbal Rockets

Toronto Raptors head coach sam Mitchell watches the game with  Houston Rockets  Rafer Alston in the...

Toronto Raptors head coach sam Mitchell watches the game with Houston Rockets Rafer Alston in the foreground during 1st half action at the ACC on January 6, 2006. (SUN/Ernest Doroszuk)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

Rafer Alston did not burn any bridges yesterday.

He torched them.

In his first visit to Toronto since being traded by the Raptors to the Houston Rockets on Oct.4 for Mike James, the volatile point guard stood by controversial comments he made about his former coach Sam Mitchell.

Alston dumped on Mitchell in an article in the Houston Chronicle this week, suggesting that the Raptors went into games blind and unprepared.

"We didn't know what the other team was doing. We didn't have a clue how we were going to defend (under Mitchell)," Alston said. "That frustrated me. We were going out there cold."

After arriving at the Air Canada Centre to face the Raptors last night, Alston continued to torch Mitchell.

"We just weren't prepared to go into the battle and I think that's one thing about, not just sports, but life," Alston said. "You have to prepare yourself and we just weren't prepared."

When asked for specifics on how Mitchell did not prepare his teams, whether it was a lack of game film, charts on the opposition, etc., Alston, who arrived at the ACC just over an hour before game time last night, well after his teammates, claimed that he didn't have any examples.

Alston, who missed 19 games this season because of a hairline fracture of the right fibula, did manage to get in one last shot at Mitchell, though, when asked to compare Toronto's coach to Jeff Van Gundy, his coach in Houston.

"There's no comparison," he said. "I can't compare it. I enjoy playing for Jeff. I love playing for him. I love playing for both the Van Gundys (Alston played for Stan Van Gundy in Miami during the 2003-04 season). They've been very helpful for my career. They made me more of an efficient and consistent basketball player."

For his part, Mitchell, who clearly had his problems with Alston last season, including the time the guard threatened to quit the team and the sport after a game in Boston, took the high road.

"I'm not going to dignify that," the coach said, when asked about Alston's comments. "Like I said before, we appreciate what Rafer did for us and he's moved on and we've moved on."

Van Gundy also refused to join the fray.

"If you're looking for me to make a pronouncement that Rafer is a really a good guy and it was Sam's screwup, or Rafer's (a bad apple) and Sam was right, then you're not getting it from me," Van Gundy said. "You guys can do all the other soap opera stuff, I'm worried about trying to win."

When pressed, Van Gundy went as far as to say that he has had "harder guys to coach."

"I'm not going to glorify (Alston) for playing 11 games with us and being normal," Van Gundy said.

Alston, who was averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 assists this season entering play last night, has played well since rejoining the Rockets this week, but he has been out-played by James, who was averaging 15.9 points and 4.6 assists.


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