Trust, respect key to point guard play

Updated: February 2, 2005, 12:11 PM ET
By Brian James | ESPN Insider
I remember early this season when Coach Stan Van Gundy told me how well Rafer Alston played for his Heat last season and that they were sorry to see Alston sign as a free agent with the Raptors.

Van Gundy loved Alston's competitive spirit, his knack of knocking down open shots and, most of all, Alston's ability to play defense for all 94 feet and still recover to his man if he gets beat.

Alston's toughness has enabled him to be a basketball survivor. After becoming a playground legend (nicknamed "Skip to my Lou") in Queens, N.Y., Alston attended three different colleges, bounced around the CBA and three NBA teams before returning for his second Raptors' stint this season.

Rafer Alston

No one questions Alston's work ethic. But his lack of emotional control has run Alston into repeated problems with Raptors' teammates, coaching staff, and management. On Jan. 30, the Raptors suspended Alston for two games for conduct detrimental to the team during a practice.

Last July, GM Rob Babcock thought so highly of Alston that the Raptors signed him to a six-year contract worth at least $27 million. It is Alston's first-ever, long-term guaranteed contract. But with this commitment comes expectations.

Alston's behavior so far has to make the Raptors wonder about their investment.