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News » Alston set for the challenge


Alston set for the challenge


Alston set for the challenge If he sulks, if he squawks, if he acts as though this isn't what he signed up for, Rafer Alston promises he'll have a very good reason.

It won't be about playing time, the Nets point guard vows. He can play behind Devin Harris and Keyon Dooling, and if the team loses, he can live with that -- as long as they make progress and play the right way, and accept losing the way professionals do it, by taking the steps to correct themselves.

No, if he loses it -- really loses it, like he was still in Toronto or Cardozo High in Bayside, which come to think of it makes him capable of ranting his way out of two countries -- it will be because he senses that he's wasting his time.

"It would not just be a matter of winning and losing, but how we respond to that," Alston said. "That's always the most frustrating thing for me. That would lead to problems for me -- if we ever think it's okay to lose, or because we get too complacent after winning. And if we don't stick together, because it's too easy to separate in this league. But any frustration I feel won't be about minutes."

You can't discount the elephant in the locker room, though.

Alston may say that he is comfortably ensconced in East Rutherford -- a short drive from his family and friends in Queens -- but the pending free agent is not likely to finish the year where he starts it.

Everyone knows this, because Alston has an agent who does not sit still if a client's earning potential is not maximized. In this particular case, Dan Fegan isn't going to twiddle his thumbs while teams from Sacramento to Philadelphia are in need of a starting-quality point who would otherwise be wasted as a third-stringer on a second-rate team.

But until Alston is moved, he won't merely be the good soldier. He prides himself on being a leader, which is his right: Only two point guards carried their teams to the NBA Finals last June, after all, and he was one of them.

And after 10 years in the league, he has a heightened understanding of chemistry that most players can only pretend to have.

"I'm a team guy," Alston said after yesterday's practice. "I'm going to keep working hard, keep leading. I play team ball. We have an All-Star point guard here, and whatever minutes Keyon and I are given, we'll play the best we can with those minutes. I'm pretty sure Coach will handle it best he can. It won't be easy. But we're veterans, we understand the team comes before the individual."

Coach Lawrence Frank has been dealing with the question since Alston arrived from Orlando in the Vince Carter deal. It gets harder to answer every time it comes up: If you look at the Nets roster, you may conclude that seven of their eight best players are guards or wings, which means a few of them are going to get very cranky this year.

"You can only deal with it with candor," the coach said. "The point guards are three of our better players, so you have to figure things out, and like anything else, if it doesn't fit, you can only be honest with the situation.

"But you have to get your best players on the court. We'll have to figure out our winning formula."

The formula that works best for Alston is something more conventional than the Nets will be running. He is still a very spotty shooter, but he is a pure point who knows how to run a halfcourt offense, and his handle might be among the best in the game. "It's a scoring point guard league right now," Alston said, "but there's room for guys like me."

Frank is even trying to twin Alston and Harris, as he tried that combo for six minutes in Albany Sunday -- an alignment that Alston says "would be great with me, because we can play very, very fast."

So everyone is getting along very well right now.

"Rafer is a guy who just gets it," Frank said. "You see it in his game -- watching him in Houston and Orlando last year, he's a really bright guy. People take for granted he was a starter for two great teams last year, and he's underrated for that. Everything up to this point, he's been nothing but exemplary."

Notes: Courtney Lee was kept on ice again yesterday, on orders from trainer Tim Walsh. The thing is, his right ankle felt just fine, and "If it was up to me, I'd be out there running through a wall." He wants to play tonight at Philadelphia in the team's second preseason game, but Frank hasn't decided whether to turn him loose, since he has practiced only once in the past six days.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 10, 2009

 

 
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