Roster Changes Continue. Rafer Alston Added.

Apparently, the tinkering of the roster is not yet complete for the Houston Rockets. On Tuesday, October 4, Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson announced that the Rockets have acquired point guard Rafer Alston from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for guard Mike James. Alston, a six-year veteran of the NBA, brings youth, athleticism, and unselfishness to the Rockets. More importantly, he gives the Rockets the true point guard they needed.

“Not knowing his (Sura’s injury) situation, we figured a little more depth at point guard was needed,” Dawson said. “It was tough getting rid of Mike because he had done a great job for us, but having a point guard that can get down the floor and looks to pass is going to help our break. He’s been very efficient over the last few years as far as running the team.”

The Rockets love the quickness and passing ability that Alston will provide. With a team structured around Tracy McGrady, Stromile Swift, Derek Anderson, and Yao Ming, the Rockets will be a team who can thrive in transition. Rockets officials figure that Alston can be the engine that ignites a furious Rockets fast break.

“He really runs the ball up the court every time,” Dawson said. “He gets it up the floor as fast as he possibly can. I think with the athletes we have now, he fits us perfect.”

Alston, while a vastly talented and spirited 29-year-old, does carry a strained reputation with him from past NBA stops. He had disputes with teammates and the head coach of Toronto and is renowned for his playground legend tag of “Skip to My Lou,” an innovator of the And1 Streetball campaign. However, the Rockets are not concerned with his past and see Houston as an opportunity for Alston to thrive.

“It helps to have a guy like Rafer Alston coming in and helping our team because he’s proven he can do that,” Rockets forward Tracy McGrady said. “I see a guy that loves the game of basketball and who thinks pass before shoot. We don’t judge on guys until you’ve been his teammate and see what he can do. Just like how I was criticized for so many things before coming here, ask these guys here and they’ll say none of that stuff is true. We’re not worried about that (his past) and we’re excited about having him.”

Alston has posted career numbers of 8.2 points and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting 36% from 3-point range. Yet over the past two seasons, as he has seen significant minutes and played a more important role for his teams, he’s averaged 12.2 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.43 steals per game while averaging 150 3-pointers made per season. Last season, his first as a full-time starter, Alston compiled 14.2 points and 6.4 assists per contest.

“We feel Rafer is a better fit (for us),” Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “He’s high-energy, a good 3-point shooter, and a very good passer. We feel he can guard the ball very well. I think he has a good basketball character, and that starts with working, passing, and caring about your teammates. He does those things.”